|Forgive a “Whole Bunch”
The readings this week are pretty straight forward: To be forgiven for our sins, one must forgive others. The first reading asks “Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord?” Then in the Gospel when Peter asks Jesus how much one must forgive, Jesus uses words that our three young kids can understand: “not seven times, but 77 times,” in other words, a whole bunch.
Whether in our families, our parish, or in debates on national issues such as immigration, climate change, or race relations, seeking and granting forgiveness can be deeply challenging. Like other lessons, when trying to teach forgiveness to our kids, we struggle with how to make the lesson “stick” – when to teach with words or actions, when to let them learn a lesson on their own, or when to use carrots and sticks to help them learn to forgive. Sometimes our choices lead to parental lectures, furrowed brows, or even denial of privileges. While words and actions can be effective, we know the very best way to teach is by example. While Jesus shared parables and performed miracles, the ultimate lesson is his example on the cross.
The only way that we can expect our kids to forgive is to forgive them. The only way we can expect them to be merciful is for them to see us showing mercy to others. As a married couple, we need to forgive each other; even if the kids do not see us doing so, they will know if we don’t. God forgives us every day by continuing to love us despite our sins; on Good Friday, this was Jesus’ request when he asked, “Father, forgive them, they know now what they do.” (Lk 23:34)
What do Jesus’ lessons about forgiveness mean for us today? We have a responsibility to speak out for the poor, the prisoner, the immigrant, and for God’s creation. The most effective teachers – from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Ghandi to Jesus himself – show us that to make the greatest impact toward a more just and peaceful world, we need to practice mercy, forgiveness and non-violence. As Pope Francis reminded us in his 2017 World Day of Peace message: “Jesus himself lived in violent times…But Christ’s message in this regard offers a radically positive approach. He unfailingly preached God’s unconditional love, which welcomes and forgives.”
Yet to forgive is not to condone. We cannot stand by idly as God’s people and creation suffer injustice and injury. But to refuse to forgive simply continues the vicious cycle of anger. This is true in the national and international stage, just as it is in our own family.
Alisa and Doug O’Brien
FAN Board Members
(Alisa and Doug have three children, aged 3, 5, and 8 years old.)
Reflect on the final three lines from St. Francis’ Peace Prayer:
For it is in giving that we receive,
In pardoning that we pardon,
And in dying that we are born to eternal life.
For all Christian people, may they have the love of God in their hearts so to be able to forgive quickly, we pray…
As International Peace day approaches, we pray for peace in our hearts, peace in our communities, and peace in our world, we pray…
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.