Homily – September 17, 2017

The most common prayer for most Christians is the Our Father. One of the most demanding – maybe even frightening words in this prayer are ; forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. In other words show the same mercy and forgiveness to us as we show to those who have hurt and offended us.

Refusing to forgive is refusing to love, and it is never acceptable not to love. That is why it is never right to withhold forgiveness either.

It is not easy to forgive, especially we’ve been badly hurt or disappointed by someone we thought was friend. It is not easy to forgive and forget the pain and anger and the bitterness one knows as a couple go through a divorce. It is difficult to forgive a person who has defrauded us of what we’ve saved or what should have come to us as an inheritance. It is hard to forgive a friend who has betrayed a confidence. But if our lives, our friendships, our family relationships have known hurt and betrayal this is what our appeal for God’s forgiveness demands of us. Forgive us as we forgive.

It is good to remember that when we find it in our heart to forgive that in no way denies the reality that we have been hurt, hurt badly by a family member or friend. Forgiving does not erase the memories of being wronged or betrayed. We may forgive but the memories of the wrongs and hurts we’ve endured stay with us. It is impossible to forget.

Anger and wrath, these are abominations. Anger and wrath are like parasites that devour our inner peace. We may imagine that by withholding our forgiveness we are punishing someone. The truth is we are only diminishing ourselves.

Peter asked Jesus what are the limits to forgiveness – seven times? Jesus answered, not seven but seventy seven times. In other words the challenge to forgive is limitless.

His challenging answer has never changed – not seven but seventy seven times. I read an article recently and the author asked this question; how do I forgive someone from my heart when my heart still stings and I find it hard to respect them’? I still don’t really know, but I know it’s my job to keep trying.

May we be blessed with grace to keep trying.