In this section
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
What is forgiveness?
In both the first reading and the Gospel it's a common sense teaching. If I won't forgive someone I cannot expect forgiveness myself, I think all people would accept that, and to make it quite clear what this means for us Christians Jesus tells us that unless you each forgive your brother from your heart, you will receive no forgiveness from God the Father.
This raises perhaps a number of interesting questions in our hearts and minds. Do I need forgiveness for anything? Are some sins unforgivable? Why do I find it so hard to forgive? What if someone will not accept my offer of forgiveness? Even - can I forgive someone for what they have done to someone else?
All these questions are actually asking 'what is forgiveness'? Forgiveness is not condoning an act, excusing a person, forgetting or ignoring what has been done, nor is it in itself reconciliation- the restoration of friendship. Forgiveness is not a warm feeling or any easy going tolerance.
Forgiveness flowing from love of Jesus
In the end forgiveness is knowing myself and imitating Jesus in his attitude to me. Jesus loves me, he desires that I be with him in love for ever; no matter what terrible things I may do- in response to each of those things Jesus reaffirms his love and his desire. That doesn't mean he isn't hurt by what I do, he may still demand that I repent, that I acknowledge my sin, he recognises that penance is necessary, that my sin has had serious consequences, but in all that he reaffirms his love and his desire for my salvation.
In the end forgiveness is knowing myself and imitating Jesus in his attitude to me.
United by baptism to Christ, we recognise that part of what we are is forgiven sinners, that we are called in union with Christ to witness to divine love in the world, we are called to forgive with Jesus, that is we are called to constantly affirm our love for others, and our desire that they be united with God simply because we recognise that God loves them.
This doesn't mean not being hurt, ignoring the damage, the demands of justice, the need for penance and reparation it doesn't even mean liking someone. But it does mean seeing them as God sees them and hoping and praying that they will accept God's love revealed in Christ.
What does it mean to forgive?
Of course it's a lot easier when someone realises what they have done, repents, makes up the damage (so far as possible) and honestly begs for forgiveness. Indeed unless someone reaches that stage then they can't receive forgiveness because forgiveness must be desired and accepted. Jesus makes clear a number of times in the Gospels that it is possible for people to reject God's forgiveness and go to hell.
But always forgiveness must be there in our hearts. Just as the love and desire is there in Our Lord's sacred heart. We might ask 'but what if they don't want that forgiveness, if they are just not interested'. Well that is why Our Lord goes to the cross. His love and desire will do anything to remove the barriers to forgiveness. St Paul says in that second reading 'This explains why Christ both died and came to life, it was so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living'
We must see the forgiveness we are called to have in our hearts in the context of the divine love for us and desire for us revealed by Jesus above all on the cross. We all need to grow in forgiveness and to recognise that we can only truly forgive in so far as we with Jesus on the cross.