It is so easy to cast judgment upon the thoughts and behaviors of others. We have heard the phrase, “Practice what you preach.” If we really believe in Jesus, we will put great effort and care into following his example and living his message. Humility is our goal. True humility begins when I see myself as one among many wounded, searching souls who are striving to work out a place in life and discover who God is and how God acts. We are here today because we need to taste and feel the God who reveals himself fully in the Eucharist-the God who is our strength, hope, and salvation. We are not here because we are better or wiser than anyone else for we are simply humble sinners in need of mercy
All around us
Hateful? Righteous anger?
Based in pride
Forgive seventy seven times
OR be forgiven and forgive
Forgiven by God, forgive others, forgive yourself
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,
Divine Mercy Sunday –
JC’s ministry to each generation
Those who have seen + unseen
Mercy in modern world
Chaplet of divine mercy
“Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?’ He answered, ‘The one who treated him with mercy’” (Lk 10:37).
Now is a good time for us to reflect on mercy, and what Christ’s call for mercy looks like, especially in this Year of Mercy. The Church gives us some guidelines to treat our neighbor with mercy. They are called “the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.” Can you name all seven of each? Pope Francis and many in the world beautifully focus on the corporal works of mercy (feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, bury for the dead, and give alms to the poor). So, let’s take a look at the ones that aren’t as well known – the spiritual works.
Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD, has written some specific thoughts for each of the seven spiritual works of mercy as one of “a 14-part series to help inspire parish cenacle and study groups who are looking for ways to make a difference in this troubled world. We invite you to review the entire series” (www.thedivinemercy.org). I will be elaborating more on these works of mercy in the coming weeks, especially with practical examples.
May you know the peace of Christ,
First: Admonish Sinners
This work of mercy — “tough love,” you could call it — is one of the hardest to practice in the western world today. Why? Because we live in the “I’m-OK-you’re-OK” culture. As such, I have my own personal set of values, and you have your own personal set of values, and we are each free to practice those values to our heart’s content just as long as we do not do grievous bodily harm to others in the process (although that limitation is waived when the “others” in question are unborn children, the chronically ill, and elderly)…
Second: Instruct the Uninformed
This means, first of all, accepting our God-given responsibility to be the primary source of religious education and formation for our children. Some Catholics may be surprised to learn that it is not the local Catholic school or CCD program upon whom this responsibility primarily rests. Rather, it is the parents…
Third and Fourth: Counsel the Doubtful and Comfort the Sorrowful
You can become that person for others if you learn to really listen to the Holy Spirit in your own life first with the help of a spiritual director. Read the New Testament every day… Then, having learned to listen, you will be ready and able to listen deeply to others…
Fifth: Be Patient With Those in Error
In God’s merciful love, we certainly ought to share the Catholic Faith with those who are far from Him because they need His mercy so badly. (Don’t we all!) It is an act of merciful love to share the faith with those who need it and to pray for them…
Sixth: Forgive Offenses
In short, we are not to curse the darkness, but to pray for those in darkness. (See Mt 5:44.)…
Seventh: Pray for the Living and the Dead
Every day we are to bring our needs, the needs of our loved ones, and the needs of the whole world into the merciful Heart of Jesus…
11th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Father Greg / anniversary
Love <=> mercy
God thirsts for tears
Her love – like Christ at Last Supper?
Forgiveness is an act of love
Fr. Greg Shaffer
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