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We must forgive 70 times 7

In June of 2000, Msgr. Thomas Wells, a beloved priest of Washington, was murdered in his rectory at Mother Seton parish in Germantown. The tragic story of his murder and the mystery of his unknown killer dominated local news for over a week. When Robert Lucas was brought to trial a year later for the crime, he was understandably scorned by Catholics and non-Catholics for stabbing a priest to death. We might even say he was public enemy # 1 in our town at that time. His family felt the scourge of our area, but attended the trial each day nonetheless.

Something amazing happened, though, on the day of the verdict. While we all waited in a crowded hall outside the courtroom, the Lucas family walked past us. As they did, the Wells family reached out to them by extending a hand in peace. They shook hands and conversed for a few moments. There were audible gasps from those in the hall witnessing this surreal but Christian moment. I realized pretty quickly that this one of the best examples of “forgiving seventy seven times” I had ever seen.

Last week, I asked the questions “Why does God forgive” and “Why should we forgive?”. We should forgive to live God’s mercy. We should forgive seventy seven times to extend God’s mercy in extreme situations like the Wells family did with the Lucas family. Here are some simple reasons to forgive others:

  • To be forgiven by God (“forgive us…as we forgive those who trespass against us”)
  • We’re not perfect…why hold others to perfection
  • God doesn’t hold grudges, so we shouldn’t
  • To be God-like (most Christ-like when forgive)
  • What it means to be a Christian

Forgiving seventy seven times applies to constantly being forgiven by God, forgiving others, and forgiving ourselves. The last one is the hardest! Even though people dread the first one the most, Confession is actually the easiest of the three because we know that God’s mercy is perfect. We know that He will respond perfectly to our contrition by forgiving us. Every time. We know that when we walk out of the confessional, WE ARE FORGIVEN. It’s over. It’s done. And yet, in our pride, we hold on to some confessed sins that God has absolved He has let them go, but we hold on to them. So, we need to forgive ourselves and LET IT GO. Forgiving ourselves comes from humility which helps us to accept that we’re sinners and not perfect. One saint said that “the truly humble person is never shocked by sin”. The proud person, however, still “can’t believe I did that”. But, the humble person acknowledges, “okay, I’m a sinner”. In admitting that deep down, the person experiences a lightening of the load. It really is a true experience of “my yoke is easy, my burden light”. Forgiveness brings healing and peace.

Let’s say that you want to be forgiven by God, forgive others, and forgive yourself, but are having trouble doing it. For the first one, I would suggest Confession even it’s just venial sins you need to confess. The soul that comes out of Confession is as clean as the body that comes out of the shower! The priest can really help to walk you through the Sacrament if you’re worried about how to confess. For help with forgiving others or yourself, here are some guidelines:

  • Seek God’s Grace through daily Mass, Wednesday Adoration, monthly Confession
  • Seek God’s Grace through daily Mass, Wednesday Adoration, monthly Confession
  • Pray for the person or situation- daily prayer + devotions / novenas
  • Sacred Scripture
  • Compassion: understand the whole person and situation
  • Humor (be able to laugh at yourself)
  • Read the lives of saints who are examples of constant + radical forgiveness (e.g., St. Maria Goretti who forgave the man who killed her)

When I’m talking with people who are struggling to forgive, I ask them to write the sin(s) down on a sheet(s) of paper. They will use the above guidelines in relation to that sheet, and when they are ready they will tear it up. It’s like tearing up an IOU. It’s a visible sign of tearing up a debt. This is helpful because it names it, analyzes it in the presence of God, and then forgives it in a visible and memorable way. You won’t forget the sin, but you will remember that you forgave it!

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

Always forgive…no excuses!

24th Sunday

Anger
All around us
Hateful? Righteous anger?
Based in pride

Forgive seventy seven times

    = always forgive
    No excuses!
Forgive and be forgiven
OR be forgiven and forgive
Forgiven by God, forgive others, forgive yourself

Why Forgive?

After Pope John Paul II was shot in 1981, the cover of Time magazine had a picture of the Roman pontiff forgiving the assassin with the headline, “Why Forgive?” If we remove the cynical tone, it is a good question to ask. While many of us might not have encountered someone who has tried to kill us, we all have been in situations where extreme forgiveness was required. In today’s Gospel, the Lord Jesus calls His disciples to forgive “not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Mt 18:22). This is extreme forgiveness. This week and next, I’d like to address all of this under the heading of “Why forgive?”

First, why should God forgive? Let’s go back to the beginning of the story between God and man. He creates man (male and female) and gives him everything that he could ever want or need. All that comes from God is good. The first roaming place on earth – the garden of Eden – is described as “paradise”. So, for man, it’s all good! God has hooked him up big time. But, then, man chooses to waste all of that through Original Sin.

To make things worse, as the Catechism says, “after that first sin, the world is virtually inundated by sin. There is Cain’s murder of his brother Abel and the universal corruption which follows in the wake of sin. Likewise, sin frequently manifests itself in the history of Israel, especially as infidelity to the God of the Covenant and as transgression of the Law of Moses” (CCC, #401).

In addition, the prophets that God sent received extreme persecution. So, basically, man spits on all the good that God gave him. God’s response? He sends His only Son into the world in order to forgive the serious and long-standing sins of His people. Throughout salvation history, God counters sin with mercy. Why? How?

It is God’s nature to forgive. That’s who He is. His essence is mercy. His essence is love. Plainly put, God cannot NOT forgive. God cannot NOT love. He is Father Almighty with “infinite mercy, for he displays his power at its height by freely forgiving sins” (CCC, # 270). We see the image of the Father of Mercy through the father of the prodigal son (Lk 15). The son represents the children of God who have wasted their inheritance – the beautiful gifts of their Creator and Father. After his disastrous sin, he comes to his father to ask for mercy. When the father saw his son returning to him, “he was filled with compassion”. God is always filled with compassion. God is always filled with love. “The first effect of the gift of love is the forgiveness of sins” (CCC, #734).

It is also God’s plan to forgive. In His infinite wisdom and providence, He knew that we would sin and reject Him when He created us. His Plan from all eternity, then, was to forgive us. It’s not like He was caught off guard by our sin and our need for forgiveness. We never catch God off guard by our sin. He has seen it all coming. It’s always a dramatic point whenever I counsel someone that Christ saw all their sins from the Cross and gave His life for their sins to be forgiven. That’s really the place to go when we ask why does God forgive. The Cross is the greatest sign of God’s mercy and love in the world. And, on top of the dramatic act of offering His body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins, He even says on the Cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”.

Second, why should we forgive? My favorite answer to this and similar questions is, because Jesus says so! He says so in today’s Gospel: “forgive seventy-seven times”. This essentially means to forgive always. It means to have radical and limitless mercy…to always being willing to forgive. Sound like anyone that I just described above? We should forgive so that we can be like God who always forgives. We should forgive in order to live God’s mercy.

We should also forgive to receive God’s mercy. In today’s first reading (Sir 27), the Lord says, “forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven”. We pray each time in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’. In other words, we will be forgiven based on how we have forgiven others.

Next week, I will present other examples of forgiving seventy-seven times. What are examples in your own life or that you have seen around you? I will also explore the process and benefits of forgiveness, and what to do when you’re having trouble forgiving someone.

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

Do you know the spiritual works of mercy?

In our Bible Study last Tuesday, we honed in on the main connection between this Sunday’s readings: “admonish the sinner.” This is one of the spiritual works of mercy that we are called to perform. In the first reading, the Lord says through the prophet Ezekiel, “speak out to dissuade the wicked.” And, in the Gospel, the Lord Jesus taught the Apostles, “go and tell (your brother who sins) his fault.” We know and live the corporal works of mercy well:

  • Feed the hungry
  • Give drink to the thirsty
  • Clothe the naked
  • Shelter the homeless
  • Visit the sick
  • Ransom the captive
  • Bury the dead

But, how well do we know the spiritual works of mercy? The following write-up on them from usccb.org should help.

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

More about Spiritual Works of Mercy

COUNSELING THE DOUBTFUL

Everyone has moments of doubt in their faith journey. Nevertheless, we should always remember that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and turn to him along our way.

  • Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may eventually become wise” (Prov 19:20)
  • The Cross of Christ “the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” (1 Cor 1:25)
  • Has someone asked you for advice? Orient your response to Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life
  • Follow Christ with the witness of your life so that others may see God’s love revealed in your actions
  • Accompany a friend who is struggling with believing to join a parish group for service or faith formation, share a book you found useful in dealing with your friend’s faith concern, and worship at Sunday Mass

INSTRUCTING THE IGNORANT

Learn about our faith and be open to talking with others about our beliefs. There is always something more to discover about our faith.

  • Go on a service trip or short-term mission trip. No time? Donate to support someone on their service trip
  • Volunteer to help with religious education programs at your parish
  • Invite someone to go to mass with you this weekend
  • Know your faith! Read through the USCCA to find out more about the Catholic faith and how to live it

ADMONISHING THE SINNER

Do not judge, but be supportive in helping others find their way and correct their mistakes. Together we can learn to walk more closely with Christ.

  • In humility, we must strive to create a culture that does not accept sin, while realizing that we all fall at times
  • Don’t judge, but guide others towards the path of salvation (see Mt 7:1-2)
  • When you correct someone, don’t be arrogant. We are all in need of God’s loving correction.
  • We should journey together to a deeper understanding of our shared faith
  • “Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye” (Mt 7:5)

COMFORTING THE SORROWFUL

Be open to listening and comforting those who are dealing with grief. Even if we aren’t sure of the right words to say, our presence can make a big difference.

  • Lend a listening ear to those going through a tough time
  • Make a home cooked meal for a friend who is facing a difficult time
  • Write a letter or send a card to someone who is suffering
  • A few moments of your day may make a lifetime of difference to someone who is going through a difficult time

FORGIVING INJURIES

Forgiving others is difficult at times because we do not have God’s limitless mercy and compassion. But Jesus teaches us that we should forgive as God forgives, relying on him to help us show others the mercy of God.

  • Let go of grudges
  • Saying sorry is something we learn as kids, but how often do we really mean it? Forgiveness transforms hearts and lives
  • Participate in the Sacrament of Penance
  • Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet

BEARING WRONGS PATIENTLY

Do not be bitter about wrongs done against you. Place your hope in God so that you can endure the troubles of this world and face them with a compassionate spirit.

  • Frustrated with someone? Step away from the situation, take a few deep breaths, pray the Our Father, asking God for patience

PRAYING FOR THE LIVING AND THE DEAD

Prayer is one of the most powerful ways we can support others. Joining together in prayer for the living and the dead entrusts us all into God’s care.

  • Request a mass intention for a friend or family member who is going through a tough time
  • Request a mass intention for a friend or family member who has passed away
  • Keep your own book of prayer intentions, writing down the names of those who you are keeping in your prayers
  • Ask a friend or family member if there is anything you can pray for them about
  • Through prayer, entrust your cares and concerns for those around you to God

Christian, remember your dignity

**Note: The following is taken from the Office of Readings (Liturgy of the Hours) for the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord

From a Sermon by Saint Leo the Great, Pope

Dearly beloved, today our Savior is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness.

No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, victor over sin and death, finding no man free from sin, came to free us all. Let the saint rejoice as he sees the palm of victory at hand. Let the sinner be glad as he receives the offer of forgiveness. Let the pagan take courage as he is summoned to life.

In the fullness of time, chosen in the unfathomable depths of God’s wisdom, the Son of God took for himself our common humanity in order to reconcile it with its creator. He came to overthrow the devil, the origin of death, in that very nature by which he had overthrown mankind.

And so at the birth of our Lord the angels sing in joy: Glory to God in the highest, and they proclaim peace to his people on earth as they see the heavenly Jerusalem being built from all the nations of the world. When the angels on high are so exultant at this marvelous work of God’s goodness, what joy should it not bring to the lowly hearts of men?

Beloved, let us give thanks to God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Spirit, because in his great love for us he took pity on us, and when we were dead in our sins he brought us to life with Christ, so that in him we might be a new creation. Let us throw off our old nature and all its ways and, as we have come to birth in Christ, let us renounce the works of the flesh.

Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition. Bear in mind who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Do not forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of God’s kingdom.

Through the sacrament of baptism you have become a temple of the Holy Spirit. Do not drive away so great a guest by evil conduct and become a slave to the devil, for your liberty was bought by the blood of Christ.

Wishing you and your family a Peaceful and Blessed Christmas,

Christ is born!

Fr. Greg

God Loves Us for Who We Are

Election novena

OT God / 1st reading
God loves us for who we are

NT God / Zacchaeus

     Looks past his sins to his (open) heart
     Z is seeking Jesus – are we?
     Who he is: descendant of Abraham, child of God
Receives Jesus with joy
Eucharist

Where there is much love, there is much forgiveness

11th Sunday  in Ordinary Time

Father Greg / anniversary
Ordination card

SAA party / confessionsGospel
Love <=> mercy
God thirsts for tears
Her love – like Christ at Last Supper?

Forgiveness is an act of love

Confession

Healing Through Forgiveness

4th Sunday Lent

Examples

Pope Francis
Parable
Wounds of sin
Family
     Healing through forgiveness

How to forgive
Filled w compassion
Name it, IOU, tear up
From heart

Book
Guideposts to forgiving

Forgiveness by God, to others, and to self