Summary: Forgiveness has no limits.
Seventh Sunday - Ordinary Time - Year C
February 18th, 2007
* 1 Sam.26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-25
* 1 Cor. 15:45-50
* Lk. 6:27-38
Here’s a little story for you. You are driving home one evening, feeling pretty good about your life and how well things are going. Then, from out of nowhere, another car plows into you. It’s a head-on collision. You lose consciousness and when you awake after several days in a coma, you are given the very disturbing news that you will be paralyzed for life. The driver of the other car is a young man in his early twenties. He had been drinking, and very foolishly thought he could drive himself home.
Would you be able to forgive this other person with all your heart, wish him well, and hope he could get on with his life without delay or interruption? Would you go before a court and plead for mercy or special consideration on his behalf? Would you ask that he merely be given counseling, not imprisonment?
Now let us look at the story from a different perspective. Imagine that you are the parent of this young person who got drunk and paralyzed someone else. Would you hope the injured person could forgive your son, request mercy from the judge so your son’s life would not be forever ruined? Would you plead that he be given a chance to redeem himself and make something of his life, that he not be put in jail and punished like a hardened criminal?
The Love Perspective
It is the same story, but with a slightly different twist. Now the perspective has completely changed. And the biggest change in perspective is that you love this young person. When we truly love the one who does evil, we see things very differently. (p. 60-61 Have You Heard The Good News, Edward T. Dowling, SJ).
Jesus declares, "I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you." As you are lying in that hospital bed, knowing that your life will forever be changed by the carelessness of that drunken driver, Jesus is asking you to love him.
There’s no use in going over and over a bunch of ’what ifs’ in your head: What if he had listened to his friends and not driven home? What if the police had caught him before he ran into you? What if he had simply run into a telephone pole instead of you? And so on and so forth. All of your mental gymnastics will get you no where.
Only Love Will Do
The only thing you need to do, and perhaps the hardest thing you will ever do, is to love that person. You need to refrain from returning evil thoughts for his evil deed. What he most needs from you is to know that you wish him nothing but good. When you finally come to release your thoughts of revenge and hate, you will have taken on the mind of Jesus Christ.
Today’s Gospel has to be taken with the utmost seriousness. Your life may depend on it. The kind of love Jesus is asking of us has to be much deeper than a skin-deep love. We can all love cute babies, or kind people, or those who love us. But as Jesus says, "even sinners love those who love them". We’ve all seen or read stories where criminals, who kill other people, still love their own friends. There’s nothing remarkable about that, is there? What is remarkable is to love those who have seriously injured you.
"We cannot live a disconnected life with negative judgmental and violent thoughts in our hearts. We protest that we never do anything dangerous with these thoughts. But the trouble is that they do something with us. They leave us separate, isolated, and therefore false to ourselves..." (p. 79 Everything Belongs, Richard Rohr).
Jesus says, "Do to others as you would have them do to you". But you will notice that Jesus does not say, "Do to others as they do to you". We are not to act like little monkeys, making faces at those who make faces at us. Returning evil for evil has no place in the life of a Christian. When we carry unforgiveness, hateful thoughts, wishes for revenge in our hearts, then we are carrying a burden that will end up harming us seriously in the long run. We will suffer from self-pity and from all the negative effects of unforgiveness.
The psalm that we prayed today is filled with God’s forgiveness. God does not see us as filled with darkness and evil. God sees beyond our darkness. God looks on us with the utmost tenderness and love. Forgiveness and healing are the gifts that God continually offers us, with no questions asked. If we accept God’s gift, we will let go of our negative, death energy and allow God’s life energy to move out of us towards others.