"Lord, if my brother sins against me, often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus answered, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times."
Every now and then there are Gospel verses that pop up and truly cut to the heart of what it means to be a follower of Christ. We are given and presented with a lofty challenge of sorts demanding deep inner work and clinging to Christ.
We are reminded in today's Gospel of the very difficult and necessary reality of forgiveness.
This work is as ongoing as conversion should be.
It is impossible without great love of God. To forgive means first that we recognize our own brokenness and imperfection, and reconcile ourselves to accepting that we are but broken instruments and people with vast limitations. Yet, simultaneously we are invited to forgive, not because of what we owe another, but more because of Whose we are, and the freedom and peace which our Lord so desires all of us to have.
A lack of forgiveness weighs us down more than the wounds that a single act, or repeated acts of hurt can create in our hearts. The heaviness can cause us to live shackled by emotions and lead us into desolation. It is not an easy predicament to be in.
Surely there are various reasons where one is invited to forgive. The gravity of these reasons will undoubtedly vary.
I think forgiveness needs to be better understood at times though. Because I do feel we can lose many people with today's Gospel if we expect forgiveness to mean having a Sunday picnic with the individual who has wronged us. Forgiveness is essential, but can truly look different in many cases and depending upon scenarios will demand something as varying as the circumstance.
There can be no forward motion toward union with Christ if we have a lack of forgiveness in our heart toward our neighbour. It is a barrier like no other and it is one that continues to ooze out resentment and anger, leaving little room for peace, and cultivates division.
To forgive does not mean that we forget our worth, or to suggest that we endure dangerous circumstances. Of course good prudence is needed in what forgiveness looks like. It is an inner work.
Jesus forgave the unimaginable. From the sufferings of the Cross he begged His Father to forgive--"Father, forgive them for they know not what they do" (Lk 23:34). And yes, while this radical moment of forgiveness is incredibly difficult to live up to or imitate it is something we can look toward for helping us understand the depth of what Christian forgiveness means.
To forgive from the heart as the close of today's Gospel reminds us requires us to offer up all of our sufferings and difficulties to Jesus. As we carry our various crosses and even feel nailed down in pain by many wrongs that may have been done to us we are invited to gaze upward to our Lord and plea for the help and peace of His forgiveness.
We come to recognize the immense work of prayer to aid the process of forgiveness. The way to transform our heart to doing so requires that we pray more than we point blame.
Let us be patient with ourselves and others as we attempt to forgive from our heart, so that we may one day experience the freedom of Christ centered love, and comfort found in clinging to the Cross. (CC)