So...what our Lord Jesus said is crystal clear.
So let’s talk about forgiveness. It comes up all the time: people say,
“Oh, it is so hard to forgive.” Of course it is hard. That’s the point.
Now, let’s be clear what forgiveness is and is not.
Forgiveness does not mean the other person did not hurt you,
nor does it minimize the wrong.
Forgiveness means you are letting go of that person
and giving him or her to God.
Let God take care of justice and repayment.
Let me also add, that forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a choice.
Just like the person who chooses to give up smoking.
She knows she did the right thing,
but still feels terrible about it, for a while at least.
So, how do we forgive?
Here are some things that might help us get there.
First, ask God for the grace to forgive.
We can’t do it on our own; we can’t do anything on our own.
This is a humbling truth we may take a lifetime to learn.
Do you think you need God’s help only now and then?
No! You and I need God’s help every single second.
Every breath. Every good impulse.
Now, this is a good time to remember something
The American author Flannery O’Connor demonstrated in her stories.
They were odd stories, with even odder people.
Her point was that God’s grace isn’t always pleasant.
So, no promise that when God gives you the grace to forgive,
that it will still not be hard, or even involve pain.
God never promises that his grace will always feel good.
He does promise that his grace will always draw us to him.
Remember, the purest expression of grace is the Cross.
A second point: if you want the power to forgive,
pray for the people who hurt you. Alcoholics Anonymous has a saying, “Act is if.”
That’s how you start. Say the words out loud, even if you mostly don’t mean them.
Keep saying them: “I forgive Joe. I forgive my Mother.”
And on that subject: it occurred to me, as I was reflecting on this,
that sometimes we harbor resentments, and the reason behind them?
We haven’t forgiven someone. I saw that in myself last week.
So if you have some resentment or coldness,
Maybe you are holding onto a hurt? Once again,
try saying the words out loud: “I forgive…”
A third point: if you want the grace to forgive, think about hell.
That’s right; think about hell.
Some people don’t think hell is real.
Or, they figure maybe only the 100 worst sinners in history go there,
and the rest make it to heaven.
Could be, except Jesus never said that.
He warned lots of ordinary people about hell. And he would know.
A priest friend of mine sometimes poses this question:
try to imagine the first ten seconds in hell. What would that be like?
When you and I refuse to forgive, we are wishing someone in hell.
Isn’t that right? We don’t want him or her to be forgiven?
So we are wishing them in hell. That’s what it means.
Or, is it possible that we can want God to forgive, while we refuse?
We want God and that person to be friends,
but we don’t want to be part of it?
Then that means we are sending ourselves to hell.
“God, you and my enemy, you be friends, but count me out.”
Where does that leave you?
If you and I are in heaven and those who wronged us are there,
we’re not going to avoid each other forever.
Parents, on a scale of 1 to 10,
how much do you dislike when your kids won’t get along with each other.
About a hundred, right?
You think God wants to put up with that forever?
So if you want to go to heaven,
and you want those other people to go to heaven,
our grudges and hurts can’t go to heaven. They go to hell!
And if we hold on to them, so will we.
So, to review: if you want to gain the grace to forgive, first ask for it;
second, pray for those who hurt you, and third,
think long and hard about hell,
because that’s where all unforgiveness leads.
See, God has two plans for humanity.
He offers the Justice Plan, and the Mercy Plan,
and they are both on display in this Gospel.
What’s the Justice Plan?
Well, that’s where we are measured by strict justice;
no excuses, no mulligans, no leeway. We get exactly what we deserve.
Nothing is forgiven. So, if you have wronged no one,
and have a perfect score, you can apply for the Justice Plan.
Don’t like that? No problem. God also offers the Mercy Plan.
God will forgive. He will forgive absolutely anything and everything.
That first servant owed a debt that, in today’s dollars,
would be in the BILLIONS. Wiped away.
But there is a condition: to gain the Mercy Plan,
you and I must apply the Mercy Plan to everyone else,
Not because it’s easy, not because they deserve it,
not because they are good enough,
not for just certain categories,
and no, not even only if they ask for it. They don’t have to ask for it!
It is Jesus, the Supreme Judge, who commands it.
You want mercy? Show mercy, even to your enemies.
In a moment, in our presence,
the Sacrifice of Mercy will be offered on this altar –
you and I will witness it! – and then we will have the opportunity
to receive Jesus’ Body and Blood.
And if we do that, you and I are accepting the Mercy Plan.
We’re receiving infinite, precious, eternal-life-giving Mercy!
Accept Mercy? Give it. That’s the deal.