Summary: Forgiveness not only gets you forgiven, it gives you psychological relief, and it can even make a friend out of an enemy.
24th Sunday in Course 2020
As I share some thoughts about the Sacred Scriptures given to us by the Church for this coming Sunday, it is Patriot Day, September 11, nineteen years into the new world bequeathed to us by four violent but related acts that unforgettable Tuesday. And every three years, around this time, we are told by the OT and NT alike “Forgive your neighbor the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray.” And our neighbor, we are reminded constantly by Our Lord, is everyone, especially our foes. I was principal of a high school that original 9/11, and as soon as it was clear that we as a nation and as Christians were under attack, I got on the public address and led staff and students in prayer. Yes, we prayed for the victims and those helping them, but we also prayed for the perpetrators in the same hour as the attack. That action was not easy for me to initiate, but I knew it was the only proper thing for followers of Jesus to do.
After all, didn’t Our Lord in His humanity, perhaps from His Mother, Mary, learn this lesson she had learned from the Scriptures? And didn’t they both know that God had made His sacred covenant with the Jewish nation, knowing that they would sin, and that for countless repetitions He had forgiven them, overlooking their ignorance. This is such a lesson for all humans that as He was nailed to the cross, the only throne the Romans would give Him, Jesus prayed to the Father for His executioners, saying bluntly, “they know not what they do.”
Indeed, as the psalmist sang, our only just response to anything that goes on in life is to “Bless the Lord” in our souls, because it is He who forgives our iniquities, not dealing with us as our sins deserve, but putting our sins into oblivion if only we repent and confess them. Yes, we may reply, but isn’t that just naive? If everybody lived like that, living for Jesus and acknowledging His law of love, sure this would be as perfect a world as we might want. But wake up, Patrick. All over the country people are rioting, looting, burning down whole districts of our cities. Weapons stores are doing record business, and social media are just pushing people on the left further left, and people on the right further right.
Let’s hope and pray we are never put to the test where we have to protect ourselves and our families with lethal force. But Jesus is very clear. In the parable, the guy who owed money to the king could have never repaid the debt–it was like the U.S. national debt. Not in the lifetime of him and his descendants to the hundredth generation could the debt be paid. That’s the debt of mortal sin that God wants to forgive us, a whole mountain of iniquity. But if we turn around and choke those who have offended us just a little bit, and even require an apology, our debt cannot
be forgiven. “My relative abused me.” Can’t sit on that one–forgive. “My partner cheated me out of thousands.” Sorry, you must give that one up, too. “My spouse left me and the kids.” Even the ones that the culture tells you are unforgivable, that your relatives would scream to know you had forgiven. Those are exactly the things that the Father needs us to forgive before our own sins can be forgiven.
And I can tell you from personal experience, forgiveness not only gets you forgiven, it gives you psychological relief, and it can even make a friend out of an enemy. Be at peace in your hearts.