Gospel of Matthew 5:20-26
Jesus said to his disciples:
“I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that
of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother
will be liable to judgment,
and whoever says to his brother, Raqa,
will be answerable to the Sanhedrin,
and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.
Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him.
Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge,
and the judge will hand you over to the guard,
and you will be thrown into prison.
Amen, I say to you,
you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”
Forgiveness. It is a vital part of who we are as Catholics… of who we are as Christians. It is a vital part of those of us, who set ourselves apart from the adages of the world, which scream at us ‘there is no need for forgiveness’ … only a need for revenge. As Christians we are called to follow the narrow path. We are called to not only follow but take the ‘high road’ as well. And we are to forgive others as we would have others forgive us… but more importantly... we are called to forgive others as we would have God forgive us…
“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”…. We pray these words every day…sometimes we pray them several times a day. After all, it is this common prayer… this most fundamental of all prayers, which links all Christians to one another… which links us all as brothers… And when asked by His disciples how to pray, it was these words….this prayer, that Jesus used to teach them about His Heavenly Father.
For many of us, it is the first prayer we learned as children. It is that important. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that the ‘Our Father’ or the ‘Lord’s Prayer‘, “is truly the summary of the whole gospel.” It tells us how to live… including the lesson on forgiveness.
As Christians we have an obligation to forgive. It is the remedy for the worlds ills. And the ill will that stems not only from us, but towards us as well. And our enemies. In today’s Gospel reading from Matthew, we are being called to be men of integrity. We are being called to be men who forgive. We must follow the command that Jesus gives us and we must pray. We must open our heart to those who have caused us injury… Those who have caused us pain. Whether it be physical or emotional. We are called to forgive. We are not called to judge.
We must practice virtue, in all things. For there is at the bottom of this act of forgiveness, a soul that is called to charity. To receive an apology is often a very difficult step… a step that will take grace…God’s grace... But it is one that must be taken. There can be no peace in the soul of one who has hardened his heart to love…. of one who has hardened his heart to the Lord.
To follow Christ…to truly be a follower of the Lord, we must, of course, try to avoid any bad behaviors that would lead us into sin, but we must also love… and be open to the love of the Lord.
Sometimes the most difficult part of loving is forgiving. It often calls for a heroic sense of humility. Which is difficult for those who struggle with pride. It calls for us to open our hearts, not only to those who have treated us well…those who have loved us in return… No, forgiveness calls for us to love those who have hurt us…those who we feel have betrayed us… betrayed our trust.
We are called to treat others with a gentleness that we may wish to reserve for those we feel deserve it...but Christ, He is calling us to do more...to be more…We need to pray for strength to do the right thing. We must also pray for courage and the necessary humility needed to not only accept an apology…but to seek forgiveness, and offer an apology in return.
A great place to to find forgiveness is on our knees… As Catholics, we must begin this journey in front of the Lord, prostrate and praying for His mercy… praying for His Grace in our souls… and as we pray let us ask the Lord to help us … to heal our painful memories…. and to give us the grace needed to forgive. Let us pray that the Lord will walk back with each of us, to those times where we were hurt and help us to replace our hurt…our pain, with His love so that we may be free to forgive… free to find healing. It will be a difficult task, but the Lord will be there…each step of the way… if only you will let Him... cradling you and guiding you on the road to recovery… But we must rely on Him...rely on God alone…Placing our Trust in Him… in His Heart… His Sacred Heart… For God truly is the Divine Physician… the Divine Healer… giving us… each of us… a heart that can be free from hurt… a heart that can be free to forgive… a heart that can be full of God’s mercy… full of His Grace…. Because only then, can we as men... maintain a heart that is full of forgiveness… full of Love. Let us pray.
Dear Lord, help me today to be a reflection of your love…especially towards my enemies….those whom I feel have hurt me in some way. Dear Lord, give me the strength and the courage I need to open my heart to forgiveness…and to let go of the pain… to let go of the anger I tend to cling to… Help me Dear Lord, to not only forgive others… but to seek forgiveness from those of whom I have caused harm…
Help me Dear Lord to replace my pains with Your Mercy…With Your Grace. I cannot do this alone…therefore I place my hope … my confidence, not in things of man…
but I place my trust in You. Amen.