March 14, 2023
by Joan Blandin Howard
Creighton University - Retired
click here for photo and information about the writer

Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent
Lectionary: 238

Daniel 3:25, 34-43
Psalm 25:4-5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8-9
Matthew 18:21-35

Praying Lent Home

Lent for the Older Brother/Sister
of the Prodigal Son/Daughter

Family Prayer in Lent

Returning to the Sacrament of Reconciliation

Wounded, Whole and Holy

Forgiveness is serious business.  The gospels give 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 a clear understanding of what the gospels intend, I lose 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: “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, “…which is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or …, ‘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 there are several themes here.  To forgive and to be forgiven are flip sides of the same coin. Second, forgiveness has to do with healing and wholeness. Third, forgiveness is dynamic. 

When I recall some of the beautiful, loving, gentle people I know, a good portion are elderly.  Some seem exquisite like a supple ancient tapestry – worn in spots, often threadbare, patched in places. Yet, have a soft patina emanating from them.  In the loneliness of illness and limitations, they seem whole and holy. I wonder, is it that they have been steeped in forgiving others and accepting forgiveness?  Is it that they swaddle their wounds, their sins in their own blessedness?  Does this grace come only with age?  Is to live life fully to be hurt, to hurt, to forgive and to accept forgiveness? To surrender to brokenness and to blessedness?

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 me in passing.  A smile, a quick, polite “I’m sorry” and all is forgiven and forgotten.  It is a different matter 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 of us is allotted 490 transgressions and must forgive in equal number?  Or does it mean that we are to be living a life of forgiveness?  To forgive is not necessarily to forget.  More often to forgive is to remember and still 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. The wound may heal; there may always be a scar. Forgiving is not forgetting.  Forgiving is loving.

In my own life, I can identify times when I have come to love through pain and forgiveness.  Also, I see the stagnation in my own life, in relationships where I have not forgiven, or accepted forgiveness – not allowed healing, refused love.  I have held the other and myself as if in stone.  Forgiveness demands a conscious decision to allow the grace of God to work in and through me and the other. To love. I think I am only just beginning to appreciate the gift, the sacrament, of forgiveness.   Some wounds heal slowly, some leave permanent  scars. The Good News is that to be whole is to be blessed, wounded, scarred and loved.

Wounded, Whole and Holy.

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