Previously we have recalled our duty to correct error. Today we look at a basic condition for being, ourselves, forgiven by God, which is that we forgive, ‘…those who trespass against us’. Straight away, not mincing his words, the writer of Ecclesiasticus condemns emotions which so often set up barriers to our forgiving those who hurt or offend us: “Resentment and anger…foul things…found with the sinner.” Whilst we must certainly ‘hate the sin’ we know that we must ‘love the sinner’. If we set ourselves up to judge and condemn any person, we become, in a way, like them. We are presented with the undeniable logic that we cannot reasonably expect God to approve plans to ‘get our own back’ for wrongs done to us, or to be able to show us Compassion if we deny this to our Neighbour. The extract finishes with what is (or should be) a chilling reminder that, as we deal with offences from our fellow humans, so will the same, in justice, be meted out to us at our Judgement!
The Responsorial Psalm highlights the attributes of our Creator, “…compassion…love…slow to anger…rich in mercy”, which, in spite of our fallen nature can, should we wish, sustain us in the ups and downs of life.
Saint Paul, writing to the Romans, simply reminds us that both here on earth and in the hereafter, we are all God’s creatures and, however much we may think that we live in ‘our own little bubble’, each life lived has an effect on others. How often do we think of this? Do we attract others to God, or do we undermine their search for the Truth? Do those around us, seeking meaning and purpose in life, perceive that we look, as the Alleluia verse proclaims, to God Who, alone, can bring us to Eternal Happiness?
In the Gospel our Lord, very emphatically, removes any limits to forgiveness. In a dramatic Parable, He delivers a stern warning that, just as the servant who refused to forgive a comparatively ‘trivial’ debt owed by a fellow servant was, as a result, severely punished for his own much greater debt to his Master, so our own forgiveness (or not) will determine the Judgement we receive at the end of our life.
We need to recognise, of course, that Jesus is not saying that we shall not be wronged, perhaps deeply, during the course of our life. We may well be unable to forget grave wrongs done to us or our loved ones. We must, however (and we have some profoundly moving examples following recent terrorist murders) strive to forgive, whatever effort this may cost, those who have set out to hurt us. We may well recall, also, how the Mother of Saint Maria Goretti forgave Alessandro, who had attempted to rape and had then killed her daughter, Maria (who also had forgiven him on her deathbed). Also the example of Saint Pope John Paul II who, following his life-saving treatment in hospital, visited Mehmet Ali Ağca, his would-be murderer, in prison, publicly forgiving this man who had shot him with the intention of killing him. How many examples might we, personally, recall of, perhaps, very ‘costly’ forgiveness?
From St. Bart's
Thoughts on the traditional teachings, devotions, seasons and matters of the Catholic Church