A Powerful Lesson
We heard in last week’s Gospel a powerful lesson about forgiveness. But, really, are we to forgive someone that many times…77 times? Since my ordination to priesthood, going on almost ten years now, I have heard more than one thousand Confessions. And I must say, it remains a very humbling and inspiring experience for me. We should all know, that at the beginning of every Confession, the person indicates how long it has been since their last Confession. I am always profoundly inspired whenever I hear it said, that it has been many years since their last Confession, and I always say, “Welcome back!” I can sense right away, how very good it makes people feel to return to this very healthy spiritual exercise.
One thing a priest will never ask is: “How many times have you been to confession?” That is never an issue! After all, a person may come to confession every week, and even confess the very same sins, week after week. And…he or she will still receive the same Sanctifying Grace of God’s Forgiveness. We can all access that Divine Mercy of our Creator, whenever we…conscientiously…request His Forgiveness by means of this Sacrament (a Sacrament instituted by Jesus Himself). If we are truly sorry for our mistakes, we always have (through making a sincere confession) the chance to start over again, no matter how many times we have failed. And that should be good news to all baptized Catholics!
Our Lord is acutely aware, that some sins are so ingrained and habitual that they may be with us all our life. Yes, Our Lord knows that. All He asks is that we are honest about them, acknowledge them sincerely, accurately and quickly, and then…humbly seek the grace to try to overcome them one more time. We may never be perfect, but we can always be honest, and continue to strive for that perfection.
Oftentimes, we do not receive this kind of mercy or forgiveness from those around us. If we offend or hurt others, over, and over again…well, we can understand that they might choose to end the relationship, for their own peace and well-being. Fair enough. But, Our Lord is different. He will never choose to end His relationship with us, so let us never choose to end our relationship with Him. His grace should not be something we simply try to take
advantage of, never making any genuine, conscientious effort to change our sinful bad habits. It should be just the opposite. Let us be cognizant and realize the great mercy…and grace…that we have received, and find the courage to make the changes and make the life course corrections, we need to make.
And yes!…we have all the time our life provides, but then again, we have only the time our life provides. So, let us commit to use our time intelligently, and respond positively, to the grace of God’s Forgiveness that we receive; the grace that provides us the spiritual strength to move forward, in our own grace, faith, mercy and forgiveness. In our growing in faith and going forward, we also need to be mindful that “forgiveness” is not “forgetting”…it is not a ‘sweeping under the carpet’, or pretending that something never occurred. Forgiveness and Healing are not the same. Forgiveness still demands justice and accountability for the perpetrator, but it does not seek retaliation. When we forgive, we are only deciding to not seek revenge. Forgiveness is a rational decision (even in-the-midst of great emotional pain) to break the cycle of retaliation.
Forgiveness and Healing are both about Hope, because they affirm that life can change (and change for the better). If we could never get over a hurt (or a sinner could never repent) then there would be no reason for Jesus to have ever come to earth. Thus, His Presence affirms a “Bedrock Element” of our Catholic Faith: “That we can change…and change for the better!” If we have hurt others, we need to know, embrace, and take the steps for their healing.
Confession is our “Road to Forgiveness and Healing with God”. In His Forgiveness, God promises “no revenge”…but He does seek our Healing (and Reconciliation) for what we have done. In Confession, God hears the story of our sin, and He hears our promise to change and repent. In Confession we hear the good news that our New Life…with God, with ourselves, and with others…continues. God’s Forgiveness and Healing Grace, affirm that no matter what our past has been like, our future can indeed be better…be more peaceful…and be more joyful. We believe the “Way of the Lord” (and His Precepts) provide us with that peace and joy, and that it does…sometimes… include the powerful events of Forgiving and Healing.
Yours in Our Merciful Savior,