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Revisiting Forgiveness

Updated: Sep 21, 2023

The Readings today are about forgiveness. Click here to read the Scripture and Gospel for this 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Why revisit forgiveness? It is such an important topic and one that is difficult for most people. Sometimes in life, we are hurt by others and the pain is so great we find it hard to say, "I don't understand why this happened between us but I want you to know I forgive you and please forgive me for hurting you." This is difficult because our hurt and sometimes ego get in the way. Sometimes, we are afraid the other person won't accept our forgiveness or they will reject our ask to be forgiven. We are placed in a vulnerable place and yes, sometimes, we have to experience vulnerability - not be afraid of it - in order to be in complete union with Jesus. If we don't practice forgiveness, our lives are not whole. Yes, we may move on and enjoy life, lead productive lives, but there will always be a part of us that remains with that broken relationship. If we move on with our lives and pretend like nothing happened, we can not heal completely. Forgiving does not mean we forget what happened or we pretend nothing happened. Sometimes, people can be cruel or insensitive and hurt us; however, we can honor these feelings while forgiving others from the heart.

Father Joe (St. Barbara Parish) reminded us this morning (Sept. 17, 2023) we must act and respond as Jesus would. We forgive with the Faith that it will change us and others. We become vulnerable so we can love each other again. He said this is important because we don't want people to lead their lives with the torture of hate. To say "I hate" is a strong sentiment that holds us back, that often hurts even more that the original violation. We can get to the place of forgiveness with the Grace we receive from Jesus. He said we should each ask this question. "Can I open myself up to someone - make myself vulnerable - that I may be hurt?" The response should be "Yes, I can."

The lesson of today may run counter to certain opinions on what it means to be "a strong person," a person who stands for principles that are not for sale. Where do the values of the Lord Jesus fit into this traditional picture of strong and unyielding personhood? One thing is certain: our Lord did not come to destroy human nature; he came to elevate it, to preserve the best in us, to ennoble us to what a Christian man or woman should be. (St. Joseph Sunday Missal (2011), pg. 593).

Hatred, revenge, and anger are human vices, the law of talion, "an eye for an eye," is even Old Testament ethics, but it is not Christian. Jesus refers to the Old Testament ethics, and states: "I say to you..." (Gospel). Have a realistic look at yourself and check where your personality should be "Christianized." The "human" in us may be vengeful, but God, whom we should follow, is different: "The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion." (Ibid).

The Jews knew the directives of Sirach, and Psalm 103 (today's Responsorial Psalm) as well as the challenge of the Scripture to be holy as God is holy! "Wrath and anger are hateful things." But they also had the civil law of talion: "An eye for an eye." Many were selective. Soothing their consciences by selecting that civil law for personal behavior, they ignored the best in their Scriptures. (Ibid, pg. 594).

Christians are also tempted to be selective. We must realize that listening to this Scripture on Sunday and yet practicing any kind of vendetta is inconsistent and un-Christian. (Ibid).

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