Sunday, September 17, 2017
Matthew 18:33-35 (NRSV): True Forgiveness
“‘Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
As Christians, it is often easy to mouth the words, ”I forgive you.” After all, it is the Christ-like thing to do when we are wronged. The question, however, is this: Does true forgiveness stop at the words we speak, or does it go beyond that to something greater?
According to Frank Doyle SJ, forgiveness is something far more involved than the words we speak:
The problem is not just one of ‘forgiveness’ but also of ‘reconciliation’. And where there is no reconciliation, or at least hope of reconciliation, there cannot be forgiveness in the full sense. . . Ultimately, reconciliation is a personal decision on each side. Forgiving in the full Christian sense is a form of loving and caring.
True forgiveness, in the sense that God forgives us, is an act of love and reconciliation. God doesn’t just say it; he gives us new life, blesses us with his love, and showers us with his grace. God forgives in the most perfect way, by loving and caring for us. Jesus, therefore, teaches this complete forgiveness to Peter and the disciples, and he teaches it to us, too: True forgiveness is an act of the heart; it is not just an act of words.
What happens when the other’s offense is so deep and the wound so painful that we cannot bring ourselves to forgiveness, let alone loving reconciliation? We pray to God that he do the forgiving for us. We offer the pain to God and let go of it. When we offer up our pain and struggle in prayer, it no longer owns us. This act of prayer and surrender is our loving action; it is our attempt to reconcile with something that is irreconcilable. God does the work when we lack the strength. But we must surrender our pain, resentment, and ill-feelings.
God’s love for us is unconditional, and his mercy is without measure. But we are created as people of free will. And we are given a choice in the way we forgive others. Throughout the New Testament, Jesus teaches that God’s mercy is only limited by the mercy we show to others -- “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” The “as we forgive those” part is the self-imposed condition of our own forgiveness. It is our choice. Do we choose forgiveness from our lips or forgiveness from our hearts? Do we choose to be owned by our past pain, or do we give it all to God as a loving act toward reconciliation?
Heavenly Father, we pray for the grace to forgive -- that we can forgive as you have forgiven us. And in those moments when we have been hurt beyond words, I pray that your loving spirit guide us to moments of surrender. Free us, Lord, from the burdens of resentment by working in us to truly forgive and reconcile with others. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
Have a blessed week!
Sunday, September 10, 2017
Romans 13: 9-10 (NRSV): Put on the Love of Jesus
[All of] the commandments . . . are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.
Social media is a platform that fosters the ruthless treatment of others. We do not have to browse far to see political, religious, celebrity, and personal targeting. And when the targeting occurs, it is so easy to jump on the bandwagon of condemnation. The anonymity and distance of the internet can bring out the worst in people. But what if we reversed this trend? What if we limited our online engagement to ways that were positive, peaceful, and constructive? The world would be different.
As the body of Christ, we are called to be a loving, merciful, kind people. Why, then, am I tempted to add to a condemning comment or put a negative spin on a “typical” news story? In Romans 7:15, Paul addresses this same problem: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Our battle is to overcome this compulsion to hate by acting, instead, in love. For Paul states that “love does no wrong to a neighbor.”
Let us put on, as Paul says in Romans 13:14, the love of Jesus Christ. When we do this, we harness the grace to be kind and loving, to act mercifully and forgive. As a result, our world and our lives will be transformed.
Have a blessed week!