Even with PRAYER, it can be difficult to CHOOSE to LEAD, LISTEN, and BE loving toward our neighbors and ourselves when things go wrong or it seems the world has gone crazy. It can be especially hard to FORGIVE! When things go wrong we must turn and ask for forgiveness. The deeper our relationship and the deeper the feeling of being a Blessed Child of God, the more we may realize that we aren’t always doing the ‘right’ thing. God knows we are not perfect and doesn’t expect it. Like a loving parent, God is always willing to forgive when we come and say ‘I’m sorry’.
In our relationships with other flawed humans, we may also come to the point where we need to FORGIVE someone. Purposely or not, people will hurt us. Harboring and nurturing the feelings of anger and resentment harm us much more than those we direct them toward.
Jesus talks about forgiveness many times:
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, I tell you, not just seven time, but seventy times seven…” (Matthew 18:21-22)
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (Matthew 5:7) And then goes on to say, “For with the same judgment you pronounce, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:2)
In Mark 11:25, Jesus reminds us, “when you stand to pray, if you hold anything against another, forgive it, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your trespasses as well." The Gospel of Luke says something similar, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37)
On the cross, Jesus said, “Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34) Many times we do not realize what our words or actions are doing to another person. Conversely someone may hurt us without realizing it. Always we are called to offer and ask for forgiveness to start the healing.
Even in the Epistles, the need for forgiveness and understanding is emphasized. “Be kind and tender-hearted to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32). In Colossians 3:13, we are told to “Bear with each other and forgive any complaint you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
There are times when we have to forgive a grave wrong. There will be no ‘I’m sorry’ coming from the perpetrator. Yet for our own spiritual health we have to find a way to forgive, even while not excusing the action. The action was evil. The person however hard it may be to see it-is a child of God. He/she is a child of the Living God who chose to make a wrong turn, to follow the wrong path, to believe a corrupt leader, or to follow a twisted ideology. We cannot excuse the action that destroyed lives (physically or spiritually), but we must recognize, incomprehensible as it may be, that God does love each and every flawed one of us.
That is true even, perhaps esp. at times like 9/11 or the Orlando massacre or school shootings. As hard as it is, we must forgive or we become part of the negative energy that perpetrates such acts. Harboring un-forgiveness hardens our hearts and leads to anger and reaction. I quoted Fr. Daniel Gutierrez last week. You may recall he said, [we have to work for] “A world where forgiveness is stronger than revenge, where empathy abounds over hate, acceptance mightier than exclusion and that the light of love and life is shining brighter than the darkness of hate and death.”
South African freedom hero Nelson Mandela said: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” Forgiving ourselves and one another helps create that freedom. Katie Barrett Todd , the author of the June 22 daily meditation, stated, “Freedom requires us to live so that all may be free. Christ’s freedom is not for one person, but for every person. Go today into the world and fight for the freedom of another. Go today to let the world taste the unending love of Christ through loving your neighbor. And go today letting the Spirit change your motivations. Live free, and fight for freedom.”
We can offer that freedom by offering forgiveness. You and I may never commit a mass murder or abuse someone or destroy a life’s work. Our sins may seem much less, but a word spoken in anger can leave a scar. A moment’s frustration can ruin someone’s day, who then takes it out on someone else, and the damage can snowball and multiply. The little ripples of anger and negativity we may drop into the ocean of life can have long lasting effects. Strive for the straight way, and the way of hope and peace. Turn and ask for forgiveness when you do lash out. Maybe we can start positive, healing ripples in our environment.
Next week is the Fourth of July, a perfect time to consider our freedoms. Then we will continue to look at ways to live into “Loving one another as Christ loved us”.