Jump to content

Pastor's Letter 20200913 - 13 September 2020 - On Being Kind and Merciful

Recommended Posts


September 13th, 2020

Today’s Theme:  “On Being Kind and Merciful” 


A Message from Father Michael

 Scripture Note

Our theme today is “forgiveness.”  In our First Reading We hear that in refusing to forgive those who have sinned against us, we exclude ourselves from receiving God’s forgiveness for our own sins (Sirach 27:30-28:7.) 

Psalm 103 talks about the greatness of God’s forgiveness, in stark contrast to human, miserly forgiveness.

Paul tells us our entire existence as a Christian is precisely for the benefit of Christ and for others. (Second Reading—Romans 14:7-9)

Then, today's Gospel passage raises the question of sin between brothers and sisters, that is, our fellow Christians (Matthew 18:21-35.)  Anyone who is forgiven, has, therefore, an obligation to forgive, in turn.  If we cannot bring ourselves to do this, it indicates we really haven’t experienced God’s forgiveness.  The position of the servant, in today’s passage, was absolutely hopeless!  He could not repay the king the vast sum he owed, even if he worked to do so for his entire life.  This is our situation before God:  We can’t win God’s forgiveness.  All we can do is plead with Him for mercy….

The Importance of Forgiveness

No one can proceed through life without “getting hurt.”  In this condition we have opportunities for growth, or, we may find our disappointments to be stumbling blocks, hindering our human and spiritual development.  “Hurts” are not easy things with which to deal.   Normally, we wallow in self-pity, as soon as they occur.  “How could this happen to me?” we might ask!  Or, rather, “How could someone do this to me?” may be more apropos.  Many times, things that hurt us most are perpetrated by people who are important to us, those with whom we share close relationships.  But once self-pity “walks in our front door,” it produces a legacy of bitterness, resentment and anger. 

Then our memories of “past wrongs” flows inward where they fester; poisoning our spirits; and destroying our capacity to love.  Some people have years of stored hurts inside them.  The “cobwebs” of self-pity have to be swept away.  The cancerous growth of bitterness has to be “cut out.”  Hurt feelings have to be “dug up,” owned and then “let go.” 

It is here where forgiveness comes into play.  Though never easy, even from a human point of view, it makes great sense.  We rid ourselves of the burdens of bitterness and resentment.  As a result, we experience a sense of freedom, relief and cleanliness.  Once again, we are able to devote all our energies to loving, which is the only activity that befits a Christian.

• Forgiveness, first and foremost, is a healing of our own hearts.  It is precisely our hearts that are wounded.

• Forgiveness also works wonders for the person who is forgiven.  He/she is set free to walk in friendship with God and with the person he/she has offended.

• Forgiveness implies and understanding of our own poverty, brokenness and sin, and therefore, our own need of forgiveness.  (This enables us to forgive with understanding and humility….  To forgive in a high-handed way is not Christian.  We have to be willing to admit that we may have been at least partly to blame for what happened.  It is not good enough to forgive in words.  We must forgive, as the Gospel says, “from the heart.”)

• Forgiveness clears a path for God to forgive us.  The only obstacle we can put in the way of God’s forgiveness of our sins is our inability to forgive the sins of others.  We all need forgiveness.  People who cannot forgive break down the bridge over which they themselves, must pass.

The Process of Forgiveness

When Jesus says we must forgive our brother “Seventy times seven” times, He is speaking  of forgiveness as something we should offer in unlimited quantity.  However, there is no point in being “glib” about forgiveness, or pretending that it is easy.  It never is…and without God’s grace, it may well be impossible.  We must realize that forgiveness is a process, (like grief, with which it shares many characteristics—and, at times, may be the same thing,) and cannot be achieved overnight.  It is not something that happens in all at once.  So, like grief, it has a series of “steps” which we can take that will lead to forgiveness and healing of our hurt. 

  We must recognize that a “wrong” has been done to us.  There is no point in pretending it didn’t happen.

• We must recognize that we have feelings about this—anger, and hurt.  These feelings are NOT sins; in fact they are natural and healthy.

• We should talk about these feelings, if not with the person who has hurt us, then with someone else, like a trusted friend, or a disinterested person whose counsel we trust.

• At some point, we must make a decision to forgive.  This is an act of will, but it doesn’t mean the feelings of hurt and bitterness will suddenly disappear.  Healing takes time….

• Then, we have to make a decision about our relationship with the person who has hurt us.  Here there are three choices: 1) We may continue the relationship; 2) We may “break it off” for a while; or 3) We may choose to discontinue our association with them altogether.  Remember, reconciliation is not always possible.  It “takes two” to be reconciled. 

Unless we forgive others, we cannot be forgiven, ourselves.  It isn’t that God is vindictive.  It’s just that if we do not forgive others, we make it impossible to receive God’s forgiveness for our own transgressions.  (Imagine a situation wherein two persons are living in the same room.  One of whom closes the blind because he doesn’t want the other to enjoy the sunlight.  But in doing so, he also deprives himself of the sun.)    

It’s not a matter of withholding forgiveness until the offender repents.  We are expected to forgive even if the offender doesn’t repent—that's what makes it so difficult, and why we need God’s grace.

It is wholly correct to pray for God’s gift of forgiveness.  In praying, we focus ourselves on the Holy Spirit within us, and ask for help to develop those God-given strengths we have been given.  The power and ability to forgive is something everyone possesses already.  But it may be “hidden” and “undeveloped,” deep within our subconscious mind. 

 Lastly, we must remember that forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting.  Rather, it means remembering and "letting go."  Prudence dictates that we should utilize our experiences in life to broaden ourselves as human beings.  Failing to remember the circumstances that resulted in our being hurt or wronged (there’s that “partial culpability” again,) would be foolish, and self-detrimental.  (It’s analogous to those occasions of sin that Sister Florentine taught us about in grade school.)  If we persist in exposing ourselves to situations that we know will produce sin, (or in this case, being hurt,) then we will have failed to grow from the earlier experience.  (While we are at it, then, we should also regularly pray that the Spirit helps to grow in Wisdom!)

 Asking for Forgiveness

To forgive someone who has hurt of offended us is never an easy task.  We have spoken of its difficulty.  Nevertheless, to forgive someone is to be in a position of strength in a relationship.  As the injured party, we are doing the forgiving; we are in control; it makes us feel good, and we have something to gain from it.

 However, asking for forgiveness can be much more difficult.  Doing so is to put ourselves in a position of weakness, poverty and humility.  In that case, we are the ones who have done wrong to someone else.  we must be humble and ask another for something, which we may or may not receive.  At such times we are not in control; things are out of our hands….

According to Jewish law, sins committed against God can only be absolved by sincere repentance.  But for sins committed against fellow human beings, we must first seek the forgiveness of those whom we have wronged in order to be in a position to invoke divine mercy.  (The Christian position isn’t much different….)

When we discover we have given offense, whether we intended to or not, a sincere examination of our own conscience is required.  (I know when this has happened to me, I’ve sometimes felt indignant, believing that I had simply been “misunderstood” by the other person; or, that "they obviously didn’t understand my reason" for having said or done something to which they took offense; or, even thought, "Well, that wasn't what I intended....   I've done this, I’m certain, to internally “reinforce,” or rationalize my behavior.  Obviously, I'm also a work in progress!   This examination invariably has brought me to attempt an understanding of their perspective in the matter.   Curiously, in doing so, I’ve found my indigence falls away, and I am moved to repentance.  I certainly don’t want someone with whom I share a good relationship to be angry with me.)

At that point, we might consider the best way to approach the other person, hopeful they will accept our apology.   At such times, we must guard against the temptation to assuage the person from their having been offended--by couching our apology in such a way that they would better  appreciate our position, and thereby forgive us.  What is heard however, is less than a sincere request for forgiveness. This approach may result in further offense. 

 The lessons learned from such scenarios are many and varied for each of us.  However, in our efforts to strive to be sincere, loving people, developing good habits in this arena will ultimately serve to bring us into a state of grace.  As Christians, this is our ultimate goal, anyway, so it serves us in both a practical and spiritual manner.

May God Richly Bless You!

To listen to a live streaming of The Liturgy of the Word for today, click here:   https://youtu.be/tyPhcdEDQlo

Lord, Jesus, Think on Me.docx

Lord, Jesus, Think on Me.mp3


24th-Sunday- pix.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...