24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 17, 2017
Saint Mary Parish, Pylesville 9:30 and 11:15am
This morning, the message is about forgiveness.
I suppose that’s pretty obvious after listening to the gospel. Jesus says that we are to forgive “seventy-seven times.”
Let’s hope no one would need to be forgiven that often! Jesus is using hyperbole or exaggeration here.
He wants us to develop a forgiving spirit and then live out of that. So, this morning, let’s talk about this.
I first want to mention three things that forgiving is not. And then I want to look at three steps that are involved in the process – and yes, forgiving is a process – three steps that are involved in the process of forgiving.
Forgiving Is Not…
First, forgiving does not mean that we deny our feelings.
It doesn’t mean that we pretend we are not hurt. Admitting that we are hurt is actually a good and healthy thing to do.
Second, forgiving does not mean forgetting.
It’s almost impossible to forget what has happened, even if we want to. We cannot expect ourselves or others to do this.
And third, forgiving does not necessarily mean that we resume a relationship.
Sometimes, maybe often, reconciliation will be possible and that is great. But sometimes reconciliation is not possible or wise or appropriate.
So, forgiving does not mean 1) denying our feelings, 2) forgetting, and 3) necessarily resuming a relationship.
Now let’s look at three steps or actions that are involved in forgiving.
First, we need to review what happened.
Review in your mind what the other person did or said. Try to remember it in detail.
And as you do this, get in touch with your feelings. How did you feel as it happened and right after it happened, and how do you feel about it or about him or her right now?
And, as part of this review, we need also to look at ourselves. As the old saying goes, “It often takes two to tango.”
So, did I say or do something to trigger this? Is there some way, maybe something minor or subtle, but some way that I contributed to the problem?
So, 1) review what happened, and then, 2) humanize the offender.
Try to separate the hurtful word or action from the person who did it. And then, try to walk in that person’s shoes for a bit.
What might she have been experiencing within herself? What kind of day or week might she have had?
Or, what kind of home life did he have when he was a child and a teen? What woundedness might he be carrying around inside?
This can be a very challenging part of the process that we may not want to do, but still try to humanize the offender. Try to step back from the hurt for a moment and allow some empathy to enter the process.
And then the third step or action is to choose to forgive.
We may feel resentful, angry or vengeful. But even with that, we can still choose to let go of it – and yes, forgiving is a choice.
Not to let go hurts us as much or even more than the other person. The Buddhists have a saying about this.
They say that holding on to resentment is like picking up a hot coal in our hand with the intention of throwing it at the person who offended us. I think that this image makes it clear that choosing to let go is as important for us as it is for the other person.
And then, eventually, when you are ready and when it is possible, try to talk with the other person. This is not always possible, but when it is, it gives life to the forgiveness and makes it very real.
So, at some point in our lives, each of us will have to choose whether or not to forgive someone.
It might be a parent, a spouse, a son or daughter, a sibling, a friend, a neighbor, an employer, a priest, and on it goes. I hope that these three steps or actions – 1) Review, 2) Humanize, and 3) Choose – I hope that they will help us respond to Jesus’ call to be forgiving.