7th Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 24, 2019
What Is Hardest?
This morning, for just a minute, please try to think about this one question.
What is the hardest thing God has ever asked you to do? Or, to put it another way, what is the hardest thing that your faith in Jesus has ever called you to accept or confront?
Maybe letting go of your spouse in death. Maybe watching your son or daughter struggle with a sickness and you feeling completely helpless.
Maybe caring for an elderly parent. Or, maybe taking Jesus seriously when he says today: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you and pray for those who mistreat you.”
Is Forgiving the Hardest?
I wonder if sometimes, forgiving is the hardest thing we are called to do.
Taking these words of Jesus seriously can be very difficult at times. Maybe your husband or wife or close friend has really let you down and hurt you.
Maybe people died without ever working through a misunderstanding over money. Or maybe terrorists have attacked us.
In situations like these, no question about it, forgiveness can be hard and it takes strength. It takes real, inner strength to forgive someone who has hurt us or to let go of a long-harbored resentment.
In situations like these, we may want to say: “This forgiveness thing does not apply here.” Or, “I have a right not to forgive.” Or, “We need to protect ourselves, don’t we?”
And no question about it, we do need to protect ourselves from a hurtful person or from criminals or from terrorists. We need to do this as individuals or as a community or as a nation.
But forgiveness is still important. Not inflicting and not wanting pain for others as a way to get back at them, and being open to growth and reconciliation – as hard as it can be, this is important, and I see three reasons why it is important.
Why Forgiving Is So Important
First, anger and bitterness and vengeance can kill us. It is like a cancer growing inside us.
It consumes and destroys and twists the human spirit beyond recognition. Regardless of what it does to the other person or even the other nation, it chews up our stomach and our spirit and can end up destroying us.
Second, the greatest motive for forgiveness and for letting go of retaliation and vengeance comes from beyond this world. Jesus says today: “Be merciful, as your Father is merciful.”
When we are forgiving, we are God-like, acting like God, being like the One in whose image we are created. When we are forgiving, we are living out of the spirit or divine life that is within us.
And the third reason why forgiveness is so important is that it connects us with our eternity. Jesus says: “Forgive and you will be forgiven.
“For the measure you measure with, will in return be measured back to you.” Apparently, our acts of forgiving foreshadow or even shape our eternity.
So, my bet is that forgiveness, at least sometimes, can be life’s most difficult challenge.
It may help us to remember that in its root, forgiveness is a choice and not a feeling. It is an act of our will – not to return hurt for hurt and to be open to reconciliation with an individual or even with an enemy.
It is a decision to respond to these people with a light that dispels the darkness of bitterness and vengeance. It is a decision to set them and us free for better possibilities.
This forgiveness is divine wisdom and divine life. It will release the Holy Spirit of God and steer us to peace and even eternal peace.