Our scripture today features sin and forgiveness. In the first reading the sin of David is forgiven by God but that fall, like all such, had wider consequences. In the Gospel Christ’s forgives the woman who anoints his feet. Lets seek forgiveness for our sins and their effects, knowing God’s infinite mercy..
Maybe some of you have seen the film The Scarlet and the Black. Its about Fr.O’Flaherty, the Kerry priest who was called the Vatican Pimpernel. He used his Vatican diplomatic status to smuggle 1000s of prisoners and Jews out of Rome’s Nazi torture-chambers during World War 11. He hear about Schindler’s List but O’Flaherty, a similar savior of Jews and prisoners-of-war during that era, gets less press. Maybe he this is because our secular age don’t want to give credit to the church. In any case, O’Flaherty is a modern hero who saved many victims of war and in an amazing act of mercy even smuggled the German commander’s family out of Rome before it fell. And during the commander’s imprisonment for war crimes his only visitor was O’Flaherty.
Today’s readings deal with God’s similar all-inclusive mercy. The first reading tells how David sinned grievously, and yet when he repented he was forgiven by God. Then we’ve Christ’s ready forgiveness of the notorious woman who washed his feet of, a lesson for the hard-hearted pharisees and indeed all of us. Christ tells them and us that we’ll face harsh judgement if we don’t forgive others like that from the heart. For, as God forgives us, when forgive others we redeem a hate-filled world.
But even from a psychological viewpoint this makes sense. Psychologists, talking of recent abuse cases, have pointed that for the victims, healing must include justice but also eventual forgiveness of those who abused them. Otherwise their ordeal will never end. For nursing bitterness, we never find inner peace, hatred eats us up. But with the inner freedom to forgive, a great burden is lifted from our shoulders; we move on with our life.
Moreover, such forgiveness is necessary for our salvation. We can’t go before God with hating hearts. At death we must have love and forgiveness in our hearts for our eternal peace. Otherwise, we risk having only a narrow unforgiving soul for all eternity. Moroever, the life and death of each of us shapes others. If we fail to forgive we can leave that cold legacy to others who may carry on the feud. So Christ’s request for forgiveness is also a recipe for society’s health. But often today I’m shocked by how hard and unforgiving our so-called liberal press and society can be, totally ruthless in pursuing corrupt public offenders, not letting up until completely humiliated and destroyed. Is this unmerciful climate part of a materialistic hardness and cruelty creeping into society in general? I hope not. For its alien to the Irish mentality which always tended to be tolerant and forgiving. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Or as Shakespeare says the quality of mercy isn’t strained, it blesses him who gives and him who receives. We cling to grievances like dirty money and the one we fail to forgive most is often ourselves. As people who invoke God’s mercy we must be merciful to all, as Christ forgave those who crucified him. For the world’s harsh unforgiving ways are Satanic traps but Christ is lord of mercy for all in this world and forever and ever, amen.
So as God’s people called to have loving forgiving heart to redeem our world in God’s image, lets profess our faith..
Prayers of the Faithful
And as the generous people of God lets pray for our needs..
For the Holy Father and all leaders in the church, that they may be example of merciful forgiveness in the face of those who would perpetuate vengeance and hatred between people and nations..
For civil leaders that the punishment of public criminals as part of the justice system, may be tempered by mercy, rehabilitation, and the outlawing of capital punishment..
For our youth that they may learn to forgive and show generous mercy, so that their lives may not be blighted by unrelenting hatred and ongoing resentments that embitter the soul..
For ourselves at home, may we be models of forgiveness for the failings of our spouses and children and continue to love them..
For the sick, the lonely, and the oppressed that through our love and care they may know the love of God in their lives..
For our dear departed that by our communal prayers and loving remembrance they may come safely to their heavenly home..
And we ask all these prayers through our all loving and forgiving Christ who is our gentle Lord forever and ever, amen.
Once a person came to me and said with great anger: “I’ll never forgive the one man who wronged me”. I had given a homily such as I’ve just given. She was intransigent: “We should never forgive abuse. You shouldn’t have said what you did in the homily”. I could understand her deep hurt at being abused when young and the difficulty of letting go. But I also felt that she was clinging to that wrong in an unhealthy way. It would continue to do damage as long as she refused to forgive, she would be a victim forever. When deeply hurt of course, we have to wait until we’re ready to forgive; that can take some time, but I think it should come at some stage, for our own good and freedom within. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lets ask our Mother Mary to give us the strength to be able to forgive eventually even the deepest hurts..Hail Mary