Who in our life has caused us pain and can we forgive them?
Twenty fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sirach 27: 30-28:7; Romans 14: 7-9; Matthew 18: 21-35
How many times have we been hurt by the actions of others? How often have we been the cause of someone hurting us? We find our selves as human beings often caught between asking for forgiveness and being asked to grant forgiveness. We experience the act of pardon in our personal relations, family, jobs, and our faith community. Forgiveness is almost as natural as love, yet we struggle with it.
We struggle with forgiveness because we get hurt. We often say our feelings our core our heart is broken by the actions of others. No one likes to forgive let alone be the reason we hurt someone especially someone we love. Yet sin, acts which are not us being our best and not loving, happen. In last week’s readings and discussion, we saw that sin can easily alienate one form the communities we belong to yet this week we see what can reconcile us back to community forgiveness.
Our first reading reminds us that when we sin or hurt another, we are separating our self from the Divine and the person we hurt. The sin we often say is the absence of the Divine who is love. Sin severs our relationships and it disrupts the communities we belong to. Anger, jealousy, greed, and of course ego are the things we all carry within us. When I perceive that someone has wronged me then I will shut them out of my life fearing that the person will once again hurt me. I get angry in reaction to being hurt and my ego says don’t be a fool and allow them back into my life. Time and again we are asked to be tolerant of others and allow that person to reenter our life and it is up to us to say yes or not.
When Peter asked Jesus about the number of times, we must forgive Jesus gives an answer that in his day would have been a value no one could ever achieve. In Jesus, culture sin separated one from the community which was the source of life for a person. If one was excommunicated because of their transgression they were on their own and usually no other community would allow them in since they did not belong to that clan. Sin was the death sentence in the time of Jesus.
We know that Jesus' ministry was one of unification through healing and teaching. His words and deeds often challenged the status quo to go beyond their rigid rules and regulations to embrace anyone who was suffering. So, when Jesus gives the answer to Peter to forgive seventy times seven it really means always. Jesus knew that we were capable to forgive and reconcile and one could not put a price tag on it for it meant life to the other person.
The sacrament of reconciliation or as it uses to be called confession is a great way to say we are sorry and receive some advice as to how we can make amends for our actions. The sacrament is about the person who has done something to hurt another going to a member of the community, the priest and asking not only for forgiveness but ways to change. Unfortunately, the sacrament became something that would give things or prayers to say which meant nothing to the person who was seeking to change. The result was a cycle or pattern of sin repetitive due to a lack of conversion or transformation of the inner self to not do certain behaviors. We need to reestablish the sacrament of reconciliation in terms of an opportunity to go before the representative of the community who not only represents the members but also the ability of the members to forgive. In every sacrament the power of the Divine Spirit is present and so there is the opportunity for a change to take place in our life so that we do not continue to hurt others.
We also know in our society there are those who have been so deeply wounded in the early stages of their development that their trauma causes them to lash out and hurt people. These people are those who often commit crimes and acts of hate toward others. These are the people that we say we can never forgive for their actions. Yet Jesus calls us to forgive. We can love the person and not their actions but to love is the call you and I have as Christians. Jesus reminds us in the gospel that there is no act of sin that cannot be forgiven, and we are called to offer compassion and mercy to all.
Our actions can either be loving or destructive and depending on how much abuse we have suffered in our life our actions may be a mix of hurt lashing out on others or self-destructive behaviors. No matter the reason or the act of transgression we are called to love and to offer forgiveness. We are the ministers of healing we are the signs of the Divine’s love in the world the choice is ours as to whether we will show and offer forgiveness or not.
Let us pray that we may have the wisdom and grace to forgive others looking beyond the act to who that person is and see the inner pain that caused them to act the way they did. Let us also pray for the ability to ask forgiveness when we know we have hurt others.