Tuesday, September 19, 2017

End of Campaign and Beginning of Forgiveness

Two separate audio links are posted here. 

The first contains two important announcements. 1) Should we consider going to a 6:30 weekday morning Mass? and 2) explaining how we are ending the parish building campaign and allowing people to reallocate up to 60% of their donations to other parish projects. 

Then the homily, respectably short due to the length of the announcements (<5 min), reminds us that forgiveness is not when we can finally tell an offender it is no big deal. No, forgiveness is when we are honest about what happened and how bad it hurt and still choose as Jesus did.

Announcements (campaign announcement starts at 2:40)

Homily (text below)

Mark Twain famously said: "It ain't the parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it's the parts that I do understand."

When I was younger I first heard this in a slightly different format: "Some people read the Bible and worry about the parts they don't understand. I worry about the parts of the Bible that I do understand."

And when I first heard that line, what I first thought of was today's Gospel: You will be forgiven as much as you forgive.

That bothered me because—I don't know about you—but that scares the snot out of me. 

That's the hardest thing to say in the Our Father: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Jesus tells us again and again that how much we measure out forgiveness to others is how much we'll be forgiven by God. 

And that scares me. 

Because I don't like it. 

Because  I'm bad at it. 

Because a lot of the time I just don't want to forgive. 

Because it hurts.  

And we've been hurt.

And one of the ways we deal with hurt is that we sit there in anger at the other people. 

Let's be honest: that's a very human thing to do. 

A couple of years ago, I found out that a person I loved deeply hurt a member of my family. 

I found out much later.

So angry. So betrayed. Felt impossible to forgive.

I think we all have had some version of that experience

Different things happen to different people but we all have an experience of "I don't think I can forgive you."

Or: I don't want to forgive you. 

All been in some version.

And that's why the words of Jesus are there.

Because it's not easy.

When I was here seven years ago as an assistant, I had a conversation with someone about the harm that had been done to her.

"I can't forgive."

"I think it's wrong to say we have to forgive." 

"I think that's the one thing Jesus got wrong."

<Ok. good luck with that!>

She really felt Jesus was wrong because it felt like if she forgave she was saying that they didn't do wrong, or that it wasn't a big deal, or don't worry about it. 

I think that's what we fear. That "I forgive you" means "eh, no big deal."

Kind of the exact opposite of forgiveness

If I'm saying, "I've forgotten or enough time has passed; I'm over it," then I don't even really need that choice to forgive. 

I don't need the virtue/strength of forgiveness. 

Then it's not forgiveness anymore. It's something else. 

Real forgiveness is when I say:

I know what happened.

I know it fully and how bad it was.

It still hurts.

And I'm making a choice.

That's what forgiveness really is.

It's not just shoving it away.

Real forgiveness is acknowledging it.

Think about it:

Jesus over here on 11th Station:

Father, forgive them...

Martyrs: skin flayed off; burned alive

Pray for your persecutors 

They haven't forgotten 

They're literally killing then at that moment

They're ripping out their entrails 

Still saying "I forgive"

Clearly a choice

Not an "I'm over it."

Or "not that bad"

They are saying, "In spite of all you're doing, and exactly because of what you're doing, I'm choosing to do the harder thing."

Jesus doesn't say it in Gospel, but based on other things Jesus says, we can imagine him saying something like: 

"Forgive those who hurt you. For if you only forgive for those things which "you've gotten over", what credit is that? Don't the pagans and tax collectors do the same?

Anybody can eventually "get over something"

It takes a Christian, it takes grace, it takes power from God to forgive those who we still feel keenly have hurt us. 

So we need to hear those words today and be challenged.

We have to hear these words—as hard as anything else in the Bible—

—as hard as any of the beatitudes

As hard as anything asked of us—Turn the other cheek, go the extra mile—

It's so hard: To forgive willingly...

It's as hard as you can get.

But Jesus doesn't ask us to do it all alone.

He will give the grace to heal.

But that means we don't just wait till "the feeling is right" to forgive. 

We make the hard choice now to forgive, and he will, over time, give us the graces of moving on. 

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