Friday, February 23, 2007

We forgive becasue we have been forgiven.

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time:2007
1 Samuel 26:2,7-9,12-13,22-23
1 Corinthians 15:45-49
Luke 6:27-38

David has his enemy at hand. In fact David is looking right at Saul and has the chance to kill him. He doesn't. Instead, David shows mercy to Saul and spares his life. Saul would not waiver in his quest to kill David yet David shows mercy. To some this would be a sign of weakness. How can you not kill the one who seeks to kill you?

In our Gospel text, Jesus calls us to love those who hate us and to do good for those who persecute us. How can we do such a thing?! Our culture teaches us to fight back whenever we are wronged. It is natural to lash back at the one who has harmed us. It can be very hard to forgive, especially when we haven't been asked for forgiveness. Forgiving is a fundamental act of being a Christian. Jesus instructs his disciples that in order to be forgiven, they must first be willing to forgive.

A mighty act of being able to forgive was recently witnessed because of an Amish community that experienced the horror of having many of their children attacked and shot in their one room schoolhouse. The gunman killed some and wounded others. Some of these children are physically impaired for life. All of them will be emotionally marked for the rest of their lives. In the midst of their grief which must be beyond words, this community spoke with a unified voice and offered forgiveness to the gunman and also his family. They recognized that the gunman's family was grieving and devastated as well. Many people would probably declare that there is something wrong with these people in order for them to forgive such a horrendous action. But this Amish community expressed publicly that in order for them to begin the journey of healing, they had to be willing to set aside the quest for revenge and live the faith they profess. For many in our society today, this act of forgiveness was unthinkable. For some it may have even been viewed as a sign of weakness to forgive. To think this way is wrong. This Amish community is brave beyond description. Their faith is strong beyond description.

Forgiveness is not about the one who has wronged us. Forgiveness is about strengthening our own soul. Being willing to forgive is the ability to set aside the anger, the resentments, the attitudes that get in the way of our relationship with God, self, and others. Forgiving the one who has wronged us is an act of faith. We forgive not so that the other person gets "off the hook" We forgive so we can liberate ourselves from the downward spiral of resentment and hate. We forgive so that we may be forgiven. Jesus calls us to a very high standard when it comes to forgiving. In our Gospel text Jesus gives us his personal example of how to forgive. It is difficult to accept. To forgive pro-actively goes against what society teaches but is essential to our life of faith.

To show mercy is to be shown mercy. To forgive is to be forgiven. To love is to be loved. In order to live in the freedom of God's love we must be willing to set aside our resentments and anger. We end up destroying our own soul when it becomes filled with anger, resentment and hate. The one who has wronged us moves on while we crumble under the weight of our resentment. It is hard to forgive sometimes, yet it is even harder to carry the soul crushing weight of anger and resentment. Being willing to forgive is the first step to living free in God's love.

We love because God loves us. We live because Jesus was willing to give us the gift of life. We forgive because Jesus has forgiven us