Sunday 17 September 2017: Scripture Readings for the Day:
We can almost grow weary by the biblical order “to forgive.” Clearly, Judaism emphasized it–those are strong words we heard from the Book of Sirach–and Jesus insisted upon it repeatedly in words and striking parables like this one.
Don’t we realize that when we refuse to forgive, we are breaking the first and foremost Commandment: I am the Lord your God you shall have no false gods before me?
Friends, we put ourselves above God and God’s mercy when we refuse to forgive! When we refuse to enter into the process of forgiveness, we fully disengage ourselves from the Two Great Commandments: Deuteronomy 6: 4 ff: 4 Hear, O Israel![b] The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! 5 Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength. And we hear in Leviticus 19:18 “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”
In Matthew, Mark and Luke: Paul’s Letters to the Romans and Galatians, the Epistle of James repeat and repeat the phrase. “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
Moreover, Jesus makes clear in today’s parable and many others that forgiveness is an extension of love. It is the essential ingredient to love, for as soon as LOVE stops being “Love-Forgiveness,” how can we trust we’re participating in the fullness of love? Friends, Dating Couples, Engaged Couples, Married Couples: Beware! If your friend or romance interest or fiancé or spouse refuses to forgive someone, something—however warranted the righteous indignation—YOU, dear friend, dear spouse will be next on the list! We participate in Love-Forgiveness (I preach this now as ONE WORD) or we do not. We must cultivate Love-Forgiveness in our hearts and invite loved ones to do the same.
What’s needed for love-forgiveness to reign? Here’s the short list:
- Vent, Rage and Cry to the Only Fully Objective Loved One — GOD; Jesus Himself prayed psalms of lament, disappointment.
- Secure that God loves you in your anger, your hurt, your betrayal –that God’s love for you is the foundation of your life—pray that you are moved to PITY the one who hurt you. See in him or her a fellow human being who has fallen from grace, given into temptation of selfishness, greed, violence
- Take TIME OUT, awaiting grace to move you from hurt, and/ or rage to pity and, finally, to tenderness
- Pray Pity be transformed to TENDERNESS as you would offer tenderness to a disobedient child; everyone has a right to live, to learn, to improve, to encounter God through Love-Forgiveness – In this world of ours, it is one of the primary ways to encounter God.
- With patience, discern forms of accountability you may eventually offer your assailant or adversary—just as a priest offers penance to sinners in the confessional. As penance offers actions and prayers to help the penitent to both show remorse AND accept accountability for his or actions in praise of God, so, too, must we be “priests to one another,” offer opportunities for change – as you would with a child.
- Allow for Time to Pass, i.e., GOD’s Time, not “our time,”, for a person to come to a place of reviewing the situation and his or her actions calmly and honestly. Here we must trust in Jesus’ and the Psalms’ constant reminder that God allows the sun to shine on the just and unjust, good and the wicked precisely to allow people to choose to evaluate the harm they’ve done to themselves and others.
- Even if your health and safety require the relationship to be severed, distant, or irreconcilable– Forgive in your heart, so you are FREE from reliving the hurt, the pain; free to move onward toward a wiser, humbler, more hopeful future.
As we move through these stages and come to the love-forgiveness act, we are truly FREE. Forgiving another in this way frees us as much, or perhaps even more, than the ones to whom we offer forgiveness. Not everyone appreciates cosmic grace after all. There are people who will never admit that they’ve done something wrong. Then, let them be! You still are free! Ground your relationship with them on other aspects that you may have in common, change your expectations of them (be more cautious around them if you must) but move on!
This is the invitation of our Christian faith, this is the cross of responsibility in charity and true discipleship. Of course, we don’t often feel like forgiving another, but faith is and must always be more than a feeling. It’s a decision. It’s a commitment.
Remember: it’s only love-forgiveness” that opens up the future. Through Love-Forgiveness, YOU are the future extending the mercy of God and the promises of Christ: The glorious freedom of being children of God.