Tuesday, March 6, 2018

“God's mercy can make even the driest land become a garden, can restore life to dry bones (cf. Ez 37:1-14). ... Let us be renewed by God's mercy, let us be loved…………..”

“It is not possible to live without forgiveness, or at least you cannot live well, especially in the family. Every day we wrong each other. We must take account of these errors that we make due to our fragility and our selfishness. However, what is required of us is to heal the wounds we make straight away, to immediately weave again the threads we have broken. If we wait too long, it all becomes more difficult. And there is a simple secret for healing wounds and undoing accusations: never let the day finish without apologizing. … If we learn to say we are sorry immediately and to offer mutual forgiveness, the wounds are healed, the marriage is strengthened, and the family becomes an increasingly solid home, that resists the shocks of our evils, great and small.”-- Pope Francis: Wednesday general audience, Nov. 4, 2015

Gospel Text: (MT 18:21-35)
Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
"Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive him?
As many as seven times?"
Jesus answered, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
That is why the Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began the accounting,
a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
Since he had no way of paying it back,
his master ordered him to be sold,
along with his wife, his children, and all his property,
in payment of the debt.
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said,
'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.'
Moved with compassion the master of that servant
let him go and forgave him the loan.
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants
who owed him a much smaller amount.
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding,
'Pay back what you owe.'
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,
'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.'
But he refused.
Instead, he had him put in prison
until he paid back the debt.
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened,
they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master
and reported the whole affair.
His master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant!
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?'
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart."

There is a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation because reconciliation is a mutual endeavor. It begins with forgiveness, with each party admitting their part in the wrongdoing, each one repenting and asking forgiveness of the other, and both parties granting forgiveness. Then both people sincerely engage in the often difficult process of repairing the relationship and rebuilding the trust that was damaged. Both people must want it, and that the relationship must be worth the effort and challenge.

Forgiveness, on the other hand, can be a unilateral act. I can forgive someone even if they show no remorse, don’t repent, and don’t ask for it. Forgiveness is something I do for my own sake and the sake of the Gospel; it is not a “favor” I extend to the offender. It does not mean the offender’s actions were right or OK with me. It doesn’t mean I think the offender deserves to be forgiven (indeed, perhaps there is no remorse or change in behavior and the offender would do it again given the opportunity). It doesn’t mean I give up on any pursuit of justice or due consequences for the action. It does not require that we reconcile.

It DOES mean that I give up my need for revenge. I give up my hate. I give up my desire to see the offender suffer as much as I have suffered. I give up the urge to get even. I refuse to be controlled by someone else’s bad actions. I take back my own power and release myself from being shackled by the venom of anger and vengeance. Hopefully I eventually reach the point where I can pray for that person’s good. I set my heart free from prison, and I can live my life, sleep, eat and laugh without that constant dark shadow. I can heal and be whole………

Of course, it is easier to talk about forgiveness than to do it. Especially when the hurt is deep, it can seem impossible. But we need to try. We need to try for our own sakes, so we can be made whole. We need to try for the sake of God’s people across the globe who are oppressed and victimized by ideologies of vengeance. We need to try for the sake of Christ, who commanded it and modeled it to his death.

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