To forgive and NOT forget ...
Sept. 11 - Memorial Poster
24th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C
To forgive or not forgive … that is the question! Which do you think holds true from among this statements? “To forgive and forget” or “To forgive and NOT forget.” Let’s keep these statements going as we move along.
For the past few weeks, Jesus has been laying down values of the kingdom and what it takes to be His true disciples. For instance, last Sunday, He spoke about the challenges and the cost of discipleship. Sundays prior to that, he spoke about humility, about entering the “narrow gate,” etc. This Sunday, Jesus goes on to teach His disciples through parables about a very sensitive theme on forgiveness. This is subject matter that to most of us are easily said rather than done. Truly, it is hard to forgive. But if Jesus asks us to forgive as He did, will we follow?
I have been in the ministry for 7 years now and I must say that I have never been freed from occasions of hurts due to differences in personality, views, beliefs and even shaky disposition. Who am therefore to speak about forgiveness? But as Jesus calls us to forgive, please allow this humble servant of yours to make this message reach the very recesses of your heart.
Let us ponder on these points:
First, we have to forgive and be reconciled. Considering the shortness of our lives, clinging on to grudges is simply pointless. The forgiveness that we offer to others is the indispensable condition, which makes it possible for us to receive God’s forgiveness and to pray with peace as we say in the Our Father, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We recall in the 1st Reading that through Moses’ pleading, God relented in the punishment he has threatened to inflict on His people.
Three months after the terrible attack of Sept. 11, 2001 (fifteen years now), the then Pope John Paul II, in his message for the annual World Day of Peace, taught clearly that “there can be no peace without justice, and there can be no justice without forgiveness.” That’s a message that has gone largely unheard and unheeded on all sides of today’s conflicts. If we want justice, we can fully achieve it through forgiveness.
Second, we may not be able to forget the hurt we have experience, but we can choose to forgive. As life goes on and we remember an incident that was truly hurtful and have caused us great anger, we need to remind ourselves that, with God’s grace, we are capable of forgiving the one that hurt us. Forgiveness finally changes us from being prisoners of our past to being at peace with our memories. Forgiveness allows us to move beyond the pain and the anger. When we forgive we make a healing choice. We can forgive the offender by wishing him/her God’s blessings and by simply offering him/her to God that both of you may arrive at true peace. When we withhold forgiveness, we remain the victim. When we offer forgiveness, we are doing it also for our own well-being and not just that of the offender. Just like what St. Paul narrated to Timothy in the 2nd Reading, from a blasphemer and persecutor, he was touched and changed by the grace of God into becoming and instrument for people to believe in God for everlasting life.
On the same note from the late John Paul II, three decades ago (1981) there was an attempt on his very life. Fortunately, he lived. After he recovered, he shocked the world when he made a visit to Rome’s Rabbibia prison on Christmas day to see the man who attempted to assassinate him. After 20 minutes of visitation, as he emerged from the cell he explained, “I spoke to a brother whom I have pardoned.” A week after, the headline in Time Magazine said, “Why forgive?” Well, today’s readings give us the answers.
Finally, the stewardship of forgiveness. In Ellen White’s book, “Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing” she said, “He who is unforgiving cuts off the very channel through which alone he can receive mercy from God.” When we cut off such channel, we also, in a way, cut off our worthiness to be a steward of God. Our everyday work should be treated as a sign of stewardship. But such work could be best carried out when we are freed from the burden of an unforgiving heart. As stewards of God’s creation sharing God’s gifts, we too, must be stewards of God’s forgiveness.
This Sunday, we are given a great task of forgiveness. To many of us, who are holding grudges because of a hurtful experience, Jesus assures us of His healing forgiveness ONLY if we ask for it. Moreover, he gives us channels of graces through the sacraments especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Such channels give us the supernatural power that we may be able to forgive others no matter how grave their offenses are against us.
Going back to the statements from earlier, I think the second one holds true. Why is that? Well, sacred scripture has the answer. Do you remember an account after the resurrection when Jesus first appeared to His disciples? What was the first thing that Jesus showed to them? It was His wounds. The simple gesture of showing them His wounds implies that He was truly hurt. The cross was a painful and an unforgettable experience and yet, he endured all of it, just so in order that He could fulfill His Father's will. That He may truly become a worthy instrument of forgiveness to man and that we too may have the capacity to forgive.
Just like in the Parable of the Lost Son, after squandering his inheritance, the father remained merciful and forgiving. Was he hurt in any way? Of course he was! But by offering his son a forgiving heart, both of them achieved true forgiveness and peace in their hearts.