Forgiveness isn’t as easy as we think. Many of us carry grudges against others even into the grave. Many families have estranged members who won’t forgive or whom we wont forgive. Lets confess any ways we lack forgiving Christian hearts..
A story from the last war illustrates our gospel. In Auschwitz, the terrible concentration camp, a Rabbi was treated badly by a guard. When the camp was liberated, inmates gathered round the Nazi to hang him. But the Rabbi stepped forward and said: “kill him and you’ll have to kill me, we must forgive, otherwise we’re as bad as he is”. Today’s readings say the same; Ecclesiastics says stop hating and hoarding resentment in your hearts; remember God’s forbearance and overlook offense. That’s not easy, but Christ tells us we’ll be judged harshly if we don’t forgive others from our hearts. He tells us to be like God, rich in forgiving. As He forgives us we should be reconciled with our brothers and sisters. That’s how to redeem a hate-filled world.
For psychological reasons it makes sense. Tribunals on abuse have pointed that for the offended the process of healing must include justice, but they must learn to forgive also. For as our first reading says harboring resentment and hate can continue the hurt at a deeper more lasting level. Only forgiving can finally lift that burden from our shoulders. Letting go when we’re ready, brings healing closure, regardless of how bad we were hurt.
Such Forgiveness is vital for salvation too. We can’t go before God with hating hearts. In life and death we must be for forgiveness, not hate or we may have narrow hating hearts for all eternity. Moreover, as Paul says, the life and death of each of us influences others. If we witness to a life of hatred and resentment then we leave that legacy to our children.
In that sense Christ’s request for forgiveness is also a recipe for social health. Often I’m shocked by how hard and unforgiving our press and secular society can be. They talk about liberalism but true liberalism is Christian, letting go. Its wrong how totally relentless and ruthless the press and public opinion can be towards politicians, abusing priests and other public offenders. Of course they must be called to account. But bringing up sins again and again, hounding them even beyond the grave is not healthy. Its alien to the Irish mentality which always tended to see and think the best of people and overlook failings after due punishment has been meeted out, knowing we’re all imperfect. For offenders may have done good in other areas. For example, Bishop Casey fathered a child and was punished. But he also did much for charity, setting up Trocaire and a mission to help Irish emigrants in England. As Shakespeare’s Anthony says of Caesar: “the evil that men do lives after them but the good is often interred with their bones”. And Christ says of the woman caught in adultery: “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”; self-righteousness is an evil.
Curiously, the person we often find it hardest to forgive is ourselves. Here too we must imitate God who as the psalm says: “is all compassion and mercy”. Christ, the living embodiment of God forgave those who crucified him. That’s our model and we’d do well to follow it for our health here and hereafter and to redeem a hating world. For its ways pass and leave us empty at last but Christ is lord of justice, love, goodness, forgiveness and peace for our deep happiness in this world and forever and ever, amen.
So as God’s people called to have a loving and forgiving heart and so redeeming our divided world in the merciful image of Christ lets make our profession of faith in that same Lord…
Prayers of the faithful
For our Holy Father the Pope that he may be an example of forgiveness and reconciliation and help heal the divisions and harboring of wrongs among nations that causes so much war..
For civic leaders that, as in Northern Ireland, they may
help reconcile age-old opposing communities on our Island…
For our young people that they may abandon the road of hatred and bring about a climate of forgiveness and healing in society..
For ourselves that at home we may readily forgive and be reconciled with spouses, children or other family members who annoy us..
For the sick, the aged, the lonely and the alienated that they may be brought into the warmth of our love, forgiveness and care..
For our beloved dead that all the trials of this world over they may enjoy the fullness of eternal life through our prayers, continuing remembrance and love..
And we ask all these prayers through the same Christ our Lord who rose above and redeemed all the petty hatred and divisions of the world and who constantly intercedes for us before the father, amen.
John Paul 11, a great man and saint of our time, is wonderful example of Christian forgiveness. He was shot in the stomach and this contributed to his health problems in later life. Yet he went to the prison to embrace and forgive the Turkish man who shot him. All of us have people like that we can reach out to. Lets ask Mother Mary to help us have forgiving hearts..Hail Mary