26 February 2018

Could be scary. . .or not

2nd Week of Lent (M)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St Dominic Conventual Mass

Of all the truly difficult things Jesus asks us to do, at the top of that long list would be: “Be merciful. . .Stop judging. . .Stop condemning. . .Forgive.” Right up there on that same list is another familiar command from the Lord: “Love God, love your neighbor.” You can always tell when Jesus knows that he's giving us a difficult job b/c he makes that job a command. He makes so that we really don't have much wiggle room when it comes to hearing and doing what he's asking us to do. We could see this as a slight – “He doesn't trust us with just a kind suggestion or a subtle hint!” Or we could see it as a gift – “Left on my own, I couldn't forgive you, but Christ commands it!” And just in case the command alone is not enough to move us toward mercy and forgiveness, Jesus adds this little trailer, “For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” So, we not only have his command to forgive, we also have a preview of how we will be judged on the Last Day! When we get to the Lord's Prayer later in the Mass, pay close attention to the line that goes, “Forgive us our trespasses AS we forgive those who trespass against us.” You are asking God to judge you in the same way you judge others. Could be scary. . .or not.

Forgiveness is difficult b/c we carry with us many false notions about what forgiveness entails. “If I forgive her, I'm saying that what she did wasn't wrong.” If what she did to you wasn't wrong, there's no need to forgive. “If I forgive him, then he'll just do the same thing again.” So, by refusing to forgive you hope to prevent a future offense? Is that how God works with us and our sin – withholding His mercy until we're perfect? How about this one: “I like having something on her. I like feeling wounded and righteous in my anger”? Fine. Just remember: you will soon ask God to forgive you in the same way that you forgive others. Do you really want God holding a grudge against you? My personal favorite: “I have forgiven him. I just don't feel like I've forgiven him.” You've forgiven him, or you haven't. How you feel about it is an entirely separate issue. No where does the Lord command us to be happy about forgiving those who've sinned against. He simply commands that we forgive. If there's a season in the Church calendar that's better suited for a reckless spree of mercy and forgiveness than Lent, I don't what it would be. There's still time. Get out there and show your fellow sinners – all of us – some astonishing mercy!

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1 comment:

  1. A very thoughtful approach to forgiveness is offered by Vincent Brummer in his 'What Are We Doing When We Pray' (Ashgate). sees forgiveness in terms of personal relationship, whether with another or with God. To forgive is not to condone or to say that the offence doesn't matter: it is for the forgiver to take to himself the pain of the offence because he values more his relationship with the one forgiven. When God forgives, he takes on the pain we cause because above all he loves us and our relationship with him.