A Reflection On Forgiveness
For the twenty-fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time 2011
By Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD
Mission Saints Sergius & Bacchus/ Franciscans Divine Mercy
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times? Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times”
These words from the Gospel of Matthew 18:21tell us that we are obliged to forgive others for any indiscretions they commit against us. There is no doubt in my mind of how difficult that can be. It is not easy to forgive a person for even one transgression against us, let alone seven or seventy times seven times.
If we think about it though we need to think about how many times we commit sins and expect God to forgive us. What if he forgave us only once and when we, because of our human weakness commit the same sin again, God said: “I have already forgiven you once you went back and made the same mistake so I guess there is no hope for you”
This would never happen of course, because God is an everlasting and infinitely merciful and loving God who understands our human weaknesses and will forgive us if we are truly sorry and show some intent to try to not return to the same indiscretion.
How many times have you broken a friendship or held anger within you because of something that another did against you which made you upset and angry and when they asked forgiveness you were unwilling to forgive them?
I know of a case where an adult daughter is unwilling to forgive her father for divorcing the mother and leaving her. She was devoted to her father and was said to be his shadow as if attached to him. When in his company she was never more than a foot away from her dad. When the parents separated she was very hurt and felt that the father left her, which was not the case in any way. That all happened when she was 6.
Today she is a brilliant successful lawyer and yet she will not call her father “dad or father” but refers to him by his first name. On many occasions the father has apologized and told her how much he loves her and is proud of her achievements in spite of the fact that he was not there for much of her youth. The young lady has, according to others, actually torn up birthday and Christmas cards which included money or checks without even opening them.
This is not the way God wants us to act. The father can understand the daughter’s anger over feeling that the father had abandoned her, which was not the case since gifts and other messages were always being transmitted to her. The father always made sure that the children, (there were also two sons in this family) received presents on their birthdays and other occasions and when in the area would visit them.
This kind of anger is not in keeping with what Christ has instructed us, but can be harmful to the health of an individual. I know of another case where a person held anger over things that had happened to them in their youth inside them and the anger ate away at them making them sick much of their life. They held on to the negative things that happened to them and tended to forget all the wonderful things.
God’s promises are forever. God promises us that we will have salvation and eternal life with Him in these words found in Deuteronomy 6:2 “If you fear the Lord your God all the days of your life and if you keep all his laws and commandments which I lay on you, you will have a long life”.
We have been given many ways to show our love and devotion to God, The rules of the Old covenant were clarified for us by Jesus Christ.
Christ affirmed this when he responded to the scribe who asked him what the greatest commandments were and after being told “The scribe said to him, ‘well spoken, Master; what you have said is true: that there is but one God and there is no other. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself, is far more important than any holocaust or sacrifice.’ Jesus, seeing how wisely he had spoken, said, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God’. And after that no one dared to question him anymore. (Mark 12:33-34)
If we can learn to forgive those who have caused us pain and anguish or worse and strive to the best of our human ability to live our lives daily exhibiting love, compassion and forgiveness to all we encounter as we travel the road of life God promises to extend His infinite mercy and love and forgiveness to us for our transgression and moments of weakness with these words; “Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” (Matthew 18:33-35)