Reflection for the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Today should be called Forgiveness Sunday. The prayers and readings throughout the Mass are about asking, receiving and granting forgiveness, and they leave us asking ourselves questions that have plagued the Dalai Lama, court magistrates, poets, philosophers, Popes, educators, parents, friends, enemies and the wounded since the murder of Abel outside the Garden of Eden:

when, how, why, whom should I forgive, and when, how, why and of whom should I ask forgiveness? Today we come to God for answers, and He teaches us what we probably already know in our hearts.

It’s hard to ask for forgiveness: first, because it acknowledges a guilt I would rather hide. Second, I am unsure that it will be granted, then what do I do for the rest of my life with my unforgiven sin?

It’s hard to grant forgiveness, too: first because it might make it look like I think the offense didn’t really happen, or it never offended me in the first place, and that’s not true! Second, just because the offender is ready to ask for it, I may not be ready, not quite yet at least, to grant it after all. And that works both ways.

Finally, it’s hard to receive it when it comes because I ‘m not sure the one I offended is really sincere in the giving of forgiveness. Besides all that, I may do the same thing that offends her, again tomorrow. Then what?

Woe is me…. No wonder there are so many books and movies about forgiveness or, to be more accurate, about mercy.

So, the stage is set. We’ve all been on it at one point or another in our lives. St. Peter has the leading role here and he asks Jesus, ‘Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive?’ We know the script: ‘Over and over and over again,’ Jesus says, ‘even if he doesn’t deserve it, because your heavenly Father has forgiven you over and over and you often didn’t deserve it, either…. Each of you must forgive your brother from your heart.’ And that means I have to ask for forgiveness, too, and I have to be ready to receive it–into my own heart.

Oh, woe again. It’s just so hard to be a faithful follower of Jesus. It all seems counterintuitive. Until, that is, I find myself in tears at the knees of Jesus (haven’t we all at one time or another wept real tears in confession?) asking Him for forgiveness for myself, receiving it, knowing I don’t deserve it, and then recognizing that I want to forgive one who has offended me because, well, because of my merciful Jesus.

I wish you a blessed, peaceful Forgiveness Sunday. It’s a gift to us from the One whose Name is Mercy.

“With Mary, our lives continually proclaim the greatness of the Lord and the joy experienced in rendering service to Him.”

Holy Rule

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