Psalms 114:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
Forgiveness is serious business. The gospels give a lot of sound advice and guidance on the subject. However, for me, there always seems to be something just out of reach. Just when I think that I have an understanding of what the gospel intends, I loose it. I have a feeling that there is much more to forgiving and being forgiven than meets the eye.
In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray to the Lord to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” In Matthew’s scene of Jesus and the healing of the paralyzed man, Jesus says, “For which is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk?’” In today’s reading, Peter asks of Jesus, “Lord, when my brother wrongs me, how often must I forgive him? Seven times?” “No,” Jesus replied, “not seven times; I say, seventy times seven times.”
It appears to me that there are several themes here. First, to forgive and to be forgiven are two sides of the same coin. Second, forgiveness has to do with healing and wholeness, and last, that forgiveness is an ongoing process. It is not a one-time event.
When I recall some of the beautiful, loving, gentle people I have known, a good portion of them are elderly. They are somehow exquisite like a fine old tapestry – worn in spots, patched in places, but they have a patina that radiates around them. In their illness, their brokenness, in their old age they are whole and holy. I wonder, is it because they have forgiven others and accepted forgiveness themselves? Is it that they are able to hold their own sinfulness as part of their own blessedness? Is this something that comes only with age and grace? To live life fully is to be hurt, to hurt, to learn to forgive and to allow oneself to be forgiven.
When I look around at others I often recognize the pain of hurt. It is easy to forgive someone who has stepped on my toe, or bumped into me in the metro. A quick “I’m sorry” and all is forgiven and forgotten. It is a different situation when a deep division occurs in a relationship. Or when separation or death occurs through negligence or intent. To forgive seventy times seven, does that mean that each one of us is permitted that many transgressions? Or does it mean that we are to be living a life of forgiving? To forgive is not necessarily to forget. More often to forgive is to remember and still to forgive. To forgive as Jesus forgives is to love with renewed energy – it is to participate in the healing. It is to give love freely and to openly receive love.
In my own life, I can identify the times when I know that I have
grown through pain and forgiveness. Also, I can see the stagnation
in my own life and in relationships where I have not forgiven, or accepted
forgiveness – not allowed healing to begin. I have held another and
myself as if in stone. Forgiveness demands a conscious decision to
allow the grace of God to work through me. I think that I am only
just beginning to appreciate the gift of forgiveness. The good
news is that to be whole is to be broken.
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