Thursday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time, August 12
Today, Our Lord Teaches Us That Living the Virtues of Compassion and Mercy in Our Own Lives Are So Important for Our Own Personal Salvation.
“…how often must I forgive him?” – an innocent enough question posed by Peter, yet it is a question which has created untold dilemmas in the hearts of God’s children throughout the centuries.
Many times in my life, I have heard many people say, “I cannot forgive my father…I cannot forgive my mother…I cannot forgive my husband or my wife.” – all because the hurt was too great, and they could not forgive – because they could not find it within themselves to love.
I had written about this once before, but I believe it is pertinent to today’s meditation. I remember a movie which many of us may have seen a long time ago. It was called The Green Mile. It was a story set in the Depression-era of the Deep South in the United States, where an innocent man, John Coffey, was wrongfully convicted of brutally killing a pair of nine-year-old twin sisters.
As the story progresses to the point where John must finally face the electric chair, the family of the twin daughters, sitting in the witness area, filled with utter vengeance, would hurl vile and venomous words of hatred and disgust at a man who was about to be executed, a man whom they believed to be the murderer of their daughters.
“…how often must I forgive him?” And Jesus’ answer to Peter implies without limit – “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”
Sometimes, it is so hard not to be judgmental, even harder to forgive when we have been deeply wronged, when we have been deeply “cut to the quick”, as the expression goes. There are stories, and maybe some of us may know of one or more personally – stories of children, brought up in a one-parent household, who have a very difficult time forgiving the mother or the father who left the relationship for whatever reason, for theirs oftentimes becomes a feeling of abandonment.
It is a heartbreaking situation in which the child, maybe even now an adult, still cannot deal with a very hurtful and personal situation, and so the relationship between the child and the missing parent remains dysfunctional, because forgiveness becomes an issue with which the child cannot yet come to terms.
We see this even in people who have been sexually abused by someone in whom they had once placed their complete trust – and resentment and bitterness continues to fill the hearts and souls of those who were once victimized.
And yet, in today’s Gospel, our Lord teaches us about how our Heavenly Father approaches forgiveness. If one humbly comes forward, with a truly contrite heart and a firm purpose of amending his or her life, God does not hesitate to grant us His Mercy and absolution from our sins. And we read today the words of Jesus, “Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him.”
However, only God can read the human heart, and if all we do is mouth the words of sorrow, but with no real intent on changing our lives, then, as Scripture tells us today, “Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.”
When we take the time to sit down and read Sacred Scripture, whether it be a daily practice of reading the Bible, or by listening to the Scripture Readings read to us at Mass or Sunday services, it becomes so important that we try and understand what our Lord is teaching us through the inspired Word of God.
Our Lord is teaching us today that living the virtues of compassion and mercy in our own lives are crucial for our own personal salvation. Not listening to what God is saying, not listening to His words of Truth, will not only create difficulties for us here in this life, but will also affect how we are to live in the next.
It took the Jewish people forty years to begin to realize that listening to and following God’s will was the only sure way for their own happiness and fulfillment in life. Their wisdom and the proper respect and awe that they held for God continued to grow to the point where they knew that listening to Joshua, Moses’ successor, was the only sure way of possessing the promises that God had made to them.
Today, we do not need Joshua to lead us across the Jordan; we do not need Moses to lead us to the Promised Land. Instead, we have our faith in Jesus Christ, who has made the will of His Father in Heaven intimately known to us, and continues to make it known through the teaching authority of His True Church.
Over the past decades, I remember hearing several homilies – sermons devoted to a deeper understanding of the “Lord’s Prayer”, about how the words, “…forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us…” can set the very tone for how God will react to us, how He will respond to our own weak and sinful nature.
If our hearts are not opened to God’s will for us in our daily lives, if our hearts are cold and hardened against our brother or sister, if we do not forgive our fellow human beings for the wrongs they have done to us, then we, in turn, cannot expect God to forgive us for the wrongs we have committed against His Love. That is the direction we give to God each time we say the “Lord’s Prayer” – a very sobering realization knowing that God’s Mercy to us may very well depend upon the mercy we show others!
In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus tells us, “When you stand to pray, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance, so that your heavenly Father may in turn forgive you your transgressions.” And Saint James, in his Epistle to the Christian communities, writes it this way, “For…judgment is merciless to one who has not shown mercy.”
I cannot imagine any one of us reading this meditation willfully choosing to turn our backs on God and tempting His Divine Justice. But, without being judgmental, all any of us needs to do is look around us today, read the newspapers or watch the evening news – and we ourselves become witnesses to so many people in today’s world whose actions are governed by hate, and who give no thought, who give no ear to God’s words of Mercy, nor to His Justice!
If we desire mercy shown to us, we must be ready to forgive others as God has forgiven us, for God Himself gave us the supreme example of Divine Mercy through His Son being nailed to the Cross!
If Jesus was willing to undergo the horrific and agonizing suffering He endured in His Passion, so that we may be forgiven and reconciled to His Eternal Father, can we not, in some way, find in within ourselves to forgive those who have hurt us?
Forgiveness takes humility, and it takes genuine Christian love to be able to forgive. No one said it would be easy, but with God’s help, all things are possible. All that is necessary is that we reach out to our Lord and ask for the grace to become Christ-like in all of our thoughts, words and actions.
“…how often must I forgive?”
As often as necessary, for every time we gaze upon a cross or crucifix, we are reminded of the ultimate and supreme example for each of us to follow. †
Please Comment, Like and Share, and Suggest to your Facebook friends – to spread the message of God’s Merciful Love.
Por favor Comente, Le Gusta y Comparta, y Sugiera a tus amigos en Facebook – en difundir el mensaje del Misericordioso Amor de Dios.
Scripture for the Day
- “Then Peter approaching asked him, ‘Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.’” (Matthew 18:21-22)
- “…forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)
- “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
- “When you stand to pray, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance, so that your heavenly Father may in turn forgive you your transgressions.” (Mark 11:25)
- “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? …remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3, 5)
- “For…judgment is merciless to one who has not shown mercy.” (James 2:13)
- “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2)
- “But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27-28)
- “Do not grieve the holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption. All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.” (Ephesians 4:30-32)
Prayer for the Day
“Faithful and Merciful Lord,Anonymous
You suffered and endured death for me;
You have consummated the debt of my sins;
Your sacrifice of forgiveness was absolute!
“Grant me the strength to also forgive others,
to excuse their transgressions against me.
So that I may truly reflect this spiritual fruit,
assist me in obliterating any persistent feelings of malice.
“Let each trespass end as a closing chapter in my life,
as I continue on the path to righteousness.
Forgive my sins as I aspire to forgive others;
as I receive Mercy from You, help me to show mercy to others.
“You are truly the Supreme Model of forgiveness,
for it is in Your Cross that we are pardoned.
Grant me the grace to always imitate You in my life,
for You, Jesus, are truly a Most Faithful and Merciful Lord!”