FORGIVING ONE’S BROTHER OR SISTER “FROM THE HEART”
Today’s Gospel is a nice follow-up to yesterday’s reflection on Jesus’ teaching about how we should interact and deal with problems that arise in our relationships to ensure that we are always working to build understanding, remove misunderstandings, and forge strong supportive and healthy relationships with all the people in our lives, especially our closest family and friends.
That’s no easy task given the screwed-up collective unconscious within which we’re all currently swimming in our minds, where the waters are far too murky to be able to see much of what is really pushing us to do (or not to do) certain things.
Those “things” become evident in social trends, however, and with the amount of information that I’m getting daily from different people from different places, backgrounds, occupations, etc. some of those trends reveal themselves to me.
If I can then see the connections with certain policies, propaganda, or other manipulative dynamics that are causing those negative trends (which translate into many negative ‘personal’ experiences within individuals and families, for which people don’t immediately see the social ‘source’ of their personal trials and sufferings, and often mistakenly blame themselves or others), then I try to share some insights about it.
As I mentioned, today’s Gospel is all about the boundless mercy of God. I’ll make a few comments about the Gospel, then describe what I’d call a “variation on the mercy theme,” that takes the essential message of the Gospel (e.g., that we are to have the same boundless mercy for others as Jesus has for us) and applies it to our contemporary situation exhibiting those murky dynamics I alluded to above.
A FEW REFLECTIONS ON “MERCY” IN TODAY’S GOSPEL READING
The context is this: Peter wants to know from Jesus when to tell someone they just blew their last chance at reconciliation because of another sin. Jesus told him to forgive others seeking forgiveness whenever they seek forgiveness, if they are sincere.
He then told a story that highlighted how “disturbing” it was for people to see how ugly it is when mercy is sought and received, then denied others – we all sense the loathsomeness and cruelty of the ungrateful servant.
The only other thing I would say about this Gospel is that it is evident that the Disciples have not yet fully grasped what Jesus has in mind for them – the kind of ‘perfection’ possible for Peter and you and me when we are taken up into the life of God. It is from the power of the Holy Spirit and love of God that we are enabled us to reside continually in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, where it increasingly becomes more and more natural, and spontaneous, and effortless, to do the Will of the Father.
It is only later the full sense of what the Gospel message really entailed dawned on the Apostles, ultimately only at Pentecost. Everything in Scripture must be understood in that context, including Jesus’ teachings that brought the disciples from the old ‘eye for an eye’ thinking to grasp the depth of what Jesus was offering.
It took a while for it to sink in with the Apostles that Jesus was giving the entirety of Himself, completely, abandoning Himself to the Father’s Will that we all be saved, which ultimately led to His submission to the wiles of evil and into the hands of sinners for whom Jesus – as He perished on the cross after hours of inflicted agony by these same people – asked the Father to forgive them: “for they know not what they do.” Which leads me into my “variation on a theme of mercy” .
YOU’RE FORGIVING ME? I’D SAY YOU GOT NERVE!
YOU’RE THE ONE WHO SHOULD BE ASKING ME FOR FORGIVENESS!
LET’S FIRST CONSIDER THE MEEKNESS AND HUMILITY OF JESUS THAT WE ARE TO IMITATE, BEFORE TACKLING THAT ONE!
One of the most important, and least-said things from the pulpit (in my experience), is that we need to strive always to imitate the meekness and humility of Jesus. That means forgetting about self and focussing on loving God who we can not see by loving others who we can see.
“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” [Matthew 11:29-30].
That is the only time Jesus said “learn from me”. The only time that same pairing of words “meek and humble” is used in the Old Testament Scriptures is the prophecy in Zephaniah on the coming “era of peace” that is not-too-far ahead of us any more:
“On that day you will not be put to shame for any of the deeds by which you have transgressed against Me. For then I will remove from among you those who rejoice in their pride, and you will never again be haughty on My holy mountain. But I will leave within you a meek and humble people, and they will trust in the name of the LORD. The remnant of Israel will no longer do wrong or speak lies, nor will a deceitful tongue be found in their mouths. But they will feed and lie down, with no one to make them tremble.” [Zephaniah 3:12ff].
If we want to be part of that “remnant,” it looks like being meek and humble is the way to go. The flip-side of that coin is to trust the Lord.
The original words in Scripture for meek (praus) and humble (tapeinos), speak of a total surrender to the Will of God that can only happen with the meekness and humility of Jesus, wherein one’s entire will and self is given over to the Father, so as to do God’s Will rather than one’s own will by the inspirations and power the Holy Spirit, and guided by the wisdom, understanding and commands of Jesus.
WE NEED TO BE MEEK AND HUMBLE TO HEAL BREACHES
HIM: LISTEN HERE!
HER: STOP TELLING ME WHAT TO DO!!
HIM: NO, NO, YOU MISUNDERSTOOD….I’M ASKING IF YOU’ WILL “L I S T E N” AND “HEAR” (POINTS TO EAR)
HER: AH…THANK GOD YOU CLEARED THAT UP!! I WAS JUST ABOUT TO LEAVE YOU FOREVER.
When things go sour in a relationship because of what APPEARS to be a betrayal of some kind, some incident that raise issues that go to the heart of whether there is still grounds to ‘trust’ in one another, and the relationship, it may not be at all clear – in fact, it usually isn’t – who exactly is at fault.
The truth is usually that breaches involve circumstances and events that required both sides to contribute to the problem. In the same way, both sides need to shift focus and want to contribute to the solution.
The whole “who’s at fault” model is the WRONG framework within which we should be thinking about such unpleasant incidents that happen in our relationships. The default shouldn’t be for us to be ‘suspicious’ of the other person; the default should be that we ‘trust’ the other person, in the absence of clear and incontrovertible evidence. We should therefore be reaching out to the other person in search of understanding and restoration of the breach, not withdrawing.
It is that ‘reaching out’ part that requires the meekness and humility of Jesus, because when such incidents happen, with false accusations flying, hurt feelings, despondency and despair, perhaps depression or anger, if we don’t abide in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we will not have the clarity, strength or courage to do that scary ‘reaching out’ thing in a way that will be peaceful, non-threatening to the other person, and will begin a more sober search for understanding and reparation.
When false accusations are made, the tendency is to defend oneself, but Jesus didn’t do that, he ignored false accusations and told his disciples to do the same, and to ignore the accusers, at least when they were the pharisees and scribes.
However, when false accusations are made in long-standing and close relationships, they should not be ignored, they should be EXPLORED – with an eye to discovering, together, in open and honest dialogue, the source of the misunderstandings and subsequent hurt and damage to the relationship.
It is my experience that although it may be the case that I am innocent of a certain accusation made against me, a careful review of the circumstances reveals that I was indeed responsible in large part for the misunderstanding as a result of some other sin or, more often, failure in perfection, some carelessness, not taking something seriously enough, or giving it the time and consideration it deserved, resulting in a failure to realise how doing so would lead to some other unfortunate consequences and hurts on other persons, that could easily be interpreted as deliberate callousness.
There may not have been any bad intention involved, or even awareness of doing wrong, so no real ‘sin’ to ask forgiveness for, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a breach to heal, or nothing to ask forgiveness for to heal it.
There are obviously many things to be put on the table if a breach in the relationship is to be healed so as to restore trust through a full and honest sharing of all the facts and circumstances, without attempting to assign blame or excuse oneself from having any part in causing the outcome, which in my experience is also almost never the case, but not always.
When good relationships are threatened with what looks so convincingly to each person like a reason to just “block and walk,” we need to realise that at that moment our spiritual focus is wacko and completely off – our spiritual compass has experienced an unfortunate “polar reversal,” often without our even realising it, flipping our needle (attention) from Jesus to self, from being open to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit and doing the perfect Will of God, to being set on our own predetermined ends and interests as we pursue a course following our much less-perfect will.
We take the reins out of the hands of Jesus (just for a bit) deciding that it’s apparently a good idea to go another direction than the one He told us to follow. Or, more likely, acting on strong negative feelings and not realising that we’re really not deciding based on ‘reasons’ so much as feelings, where the ‘reasons’ we are deciding is to get rid of the negative feelings.
You expired, Jesus, but the source of life gushed forth for souls, and the ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world. O Fount of Life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, envelop the whole world and empty Yourself out upon us.
Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.
For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.