So: what our Lord Jesus said is crystal clear.
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 that the wrong didn’t happen;
or that what happened, wasn’t wrong.
Nor does it mean you have to pretend.
It doesn’t even mean you have to like that person.
Finally, forgiveness doesn’t mean
there’s no accountability or recompense.
Forgiveness simply means you are letting go of that person
and giving him or her to God.
Let God take care of justice and repayment.
Forgiveness isn’t a feeling; it is a choice.
Think of the person who chooses to give up smoking.
She knows she did the right thing,
but what does she feel?
At any time, she may feel grumpy or irritated or even regretful.
But those are feelings, they come and go.
So, how do we forgive?
Here are some things that might help us get there.
First, ask God for the grace to forgive.
And I mean, more than once. Ask, ask and ask again.
You and I 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?
This is a good time to remember something
the American author Flannery O’Connor demonstrated in her stories;
namely, that God’s grace isn’t always pleasant.
It may not make you feel good.
But God’s grace will always bring you closer 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.
Again: not just once, but over and over.
Alcoholics Anonymous has a saying, “Act is if.” That’s how you start.
A third point: if you want the grace to forgive, think about hell.
That’s right; think about hell.
I suspect a lot of people don’t take hell seriously.
They figure only people like Hitler go there, that’s it.
The trouble is, Jesus certainly takes hell seriously,
and he is always warning ordinary people like us about hell.
A priest friend of mine sometimes poses this question:
try to imagine the first ten seconds in hell. What would that be like?
Let’s try (count to ten).
When you and I refuse to forgive, we are wishing that on that person.
Right? Because you don’t want him or her to be forgiven?
That means wishing those people in hell.
Or, do you mean you want God to forgive, while you refuse?
That means you want God and that person to be at peace,
but you don’t want to be part of it?
Then that means you are sending yourself to hell.
If you want to go to heaven,
and you want those other people to go to heaven,
then our grudges and hurts can’t go to heaven.
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?
That’s where each of us is measured by strict justice;
no excuses, no mulligans, no leeway. We get precisely what we deserve.
So, if you have wronged no one,
committed no sin, and you 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: 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? Give 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 Mercy: that is, Jesus’ Body and Blood.
And if we receive the Eucharist, that is accepting the Mercy Plan.
You want Mercy? Give it. That’s the deal.