who has hurt you?
i have been watching a lot of netflix during this pandemic. maybe you have too. a major recurring theme in movies is hurt-revenge-consequences. it is a worldly theme as old as cain and abel in the book of genesis. why are we attracted to these types of films? why do we constantly need to re-learn life lessons when it comes to forgiveness? what difference does faith make in it all?
one of my recurring homily themes is within the greatest prayer in the christian scriptures– the Our Father (the Lord’s Prayer). perhaps the most challenging line among these dangerous words are: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” when we pray it liturgically there is a major pause in the middle of it– as to separate the actions. but it is one sentence. do we actually ask the God to treat us in the same way as we treat others in the area of forgiveness? who can survive? thankfully, God’s mercy is boundless. so this petition is for our benefit since the consequences of sin include ruptured relationships.
forgiving others heals the one who forgives. the person who has hurt us might not change at all but the heart of the one who forgives can be healed. healing is God’s will for us; it is our salvation. we need grace to lift us out of this harm. when we do not forgive others, we continue to bring harm to ourselves over and over. to choose forgiveness, we can let go if the hurt. sometimes this forgiveness dynamic is a process over time. we can dance with the Spirit differently and at the needed pace
two other teachings of jesus add spice to this forgiveness-healing dynamic. the first is the following line in the Lord’s Prayer: “do not let us fall into temptation.” this line has as many applications as there are temptations. pope francis was right in following the scripture scholars understanding of the text that God does not lead us into temptation but God helps us not fall when we are in temptation. i do not think it an accident that it immediately follows the forgive-us-as-we-forgive supplication. we often fall short in the temptation to not forgive; we need God’s grace and help to overcome our primal human temptations, at best, not to forgive and at worst, to seek revenge. as always, grace and the Spirit are the keys to do this.
the second is also from sermon on the mount: “love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you.” this is a reminder that our enemies are our neighbors too — the love commandment still applies. how do we ‘love” an enemy? we forgive them. it’s that simple but it is not easy. does this open the door for our enemy to cease being an enemy? does the Lord dare suggest that an enemy can even become a “friend.” don’t we pray the “our Father” so that we may realize that we are all brothers and sisters with one Father.
as always, grace is what enables us to forgive. ourselves, others, our enemies/those who have hurt us. grace is what enables the transformation of our hurt into healing. forgiveness is the key.
this coming sunday’s gospel reading from matthew 18: 21-35 gives us a not so subtle understanding of this dynamic that to be forgiven, we must forgive. may the Spirit guide and lead us to live the words we pray in the Our Father and through it, bring us and our world healing.
here is matthew 18: 21-35: Peter went up to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times. ‘And so the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who decided to settle his accounts with his servants. When the reckoning began, they brought him a man who owed ten thousand talents; but he had no means of paying, so his master gave orders that he should be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, to meet the debt. At this, the servant threw himself down at his master’s feet. “Give me time” he said “and I will pay the whole sum.” And the servant’s master felt so sorry for him that he let him go and cancelled the debt. Now as this servant went out, he happened to meet a fellow servant who owed him one hundred denarii; and he seized him by the throat and began to throttle him. “Pay what you owe me” he said. His fellow servant fell at his feet and implored him, saying, “Give me time and I will pay you.” But the other would not agree; on the contrary, he had him thrown into prison till he should pay the debt. His fellow servants were deeply distressed when they saw what had happened, and they went to their master and reported the whole affair to him. Then the master sent for him. “You wicked servant,” he said “I cancelled all that debt of yours when you appealed to me. Were you not bound, then, to have pity on your fellow servant just as I had pity on you?” And in his anger the master handed him over to the torturers till he should pay all his debt. And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart.’