Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sunday, February 20, 2022
Holy Ghost Church – 8:00 & 10:00 Masses
1 Samuel 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23; Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13; 1 Corinthians 15:45-49; Luke 6:27-38
Audio / Video
Love Your Enemies
We know that God is just, and that final judgment is coming for each person. As St. Paul put it: “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
Yet we also know that God is merciful, and that he has come among us specifically to provide a way for us to avoid the harsh judgment that our sins would rightly demand. Shortly before his death and resurrection, Jesus said: “I did not come to judge the world but to save the world” (John 12:47).
This is excellent news for all of us, members of the fallen human race. Jesus offers the gift of forgiveness to all who seek it. BUT, he puts a condition on his forgiveness, one that it is easy for us to forget.
The condition is simply this: God will forgive us to the same degree that we have forgiven those who have sinned against us. Jesus has placed our eternal future squarely into our own hands. “Forgive and you will be forgiven.” That is the divine rule. And the converse is also necessarily true: “Do not forgive and you will not be forgiven.”
Jesus has written this law of forgiveness into the Lord’s Prayer itself. He has taught us to request that God forgive us our sins “as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We are asking God to use with us the same measure we have used with others. This is both the key to receiving God’s mercy, as well as it’s a dangerous prayer that cuts two ways.
Here’s the bottom line: If we are doing our best to forgive others, we can confidently ask God to deal with us mercifully. BUT, if we are refusing to forgive others, if we are not dealing mercifully with them, we are in no position to expect that God will be merciful to us and forgive OUR sins. No, we can expect that he will deal with us just as harshly as we have dealt with others. Do any of us really want God to deal with us harshly at the end of our lives?
The profound importance of forgiveness is the context for Jesus’ command in today’s gospel to “love your enemies.” This is not an emotive command; we are not told that we need to LIKE our enemies. We are told that we should hope and act for their genuine good. In short, we must love them.
All reasonable people want good things for their friends, and big-hearted people may hope and act for the good of many people they don’t even know by praying for them and giving to various charities.
But to love an enemy? To desire good things for someone who has harmed me, someone who hates me, who has injured people I care about, whose acts and intentions, if successful, will be the destruction of all my hopes? This seems impossible! We have to love these people?
The fact is that we actually seem to like cursing those who do us wrong and we enjoy telling our friends what a jerk he or she is, don’t we? We may even indulge ourselves by handing out the “silent treatment,” thinking this will really show them how much they’ve hurt us. Right? Yes, we seem to cherish holding a grudge…we think of it as a precious right of sorts.
But unforgiveness never helps us. By definition unforgiveness is a state of emotional and mental distress that results from a delayed response in forgiving an offender. It is characterized by indignation, bitterness, and a demand for punishment or restitution. Simply put, an attitude of unforgiveness places a huge burden on us. It actually causes us emotional and mental distress!
I’ve known people who haven’t spoken to someone for years over a misunderstanding or a careless insult that they refuse to let go of. Often times it’s a family member. I’ll bet you know someone like that too.
In spite of how difficult extending forgiveness may be for us, this is serious business. Today’s gospel gives us a clear spiritual law from Jesus himself as to how we will be judged at the end of our lives. Listen again:
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
Yes, this forgiveness thing is serious business. St. John Paul II spoke of withholding forgiveness as being like keeping ourselves locked in prison. He said:
“Forgiveness is the restoration of freedom to oneself. It is the key held in our own hand to our prison cell.”
Think about this! When we hold a grudge and refuse to forgive those who have hurt us, we keep ourselves locked in a personal prison cell. We are prisoners of our own unforgiveness!
Unforgiveness locks us into a deep unhappiness. By not forgiving we are imprisoned by anger, resentment, and bitterness. The person most punished in all of this is OURSELVES, not the one who wronged us!
Here’s another important thing to know about forgiveness. Just because you forgive someone for hurting you or someone you love, it DOES NOT mean that you approve of what they did. Not at all! By offering forgiveness you are allowing yourself to be healed by letting go of the bitterness you’re feeling toward someone.
By forgiving you are not saying that what someone did to you was alright. Rather, you are saying that you refuse to be bound by the bitterness and contempt for that person you nurse while holding a grudge.
Jesus’ teaching on the gravity of our need to forgive others is clear throughout the gospels. From the Gospel according to Matthew he says: “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15).
Either we learn this difficult business of forgiveness, or we can expect to be given perfect justice at the end of our lives. And I assure you that no sensible person who has knowledge of our guilty state as human persons wants perfect justice for themselves when it’s their time to come face-to-face with God.
Let’s remember this essential spiritual law of forgiveness every time we pray the Our Father and ask God to “Forgive us our trespasses AS we forgive those who trespass against us.”
When we forgive our enemies we experience the peace and joy of knowing that our thoughts and actions are pleasing God. As we forgive others, God lifts the burdens of resentment, anger and revenge from our shoulders and give us his peace, his blessing.
So let us ask ourselves today, “Who do I need to forgive? Am I allowing unforgiveness and grudge-holding prevent me from growing in God’s grace?
I promise that if you make the effort to extend forgiveness to all those who have hurt you, your life will change! By forgiving others you can be sure that God will forgive you, give you his peace, and allow you to more fully experience his unconditional love and joy. Forgiveness is, indeed, one of the hallmarks of a Christian life well-lived.
Our Journeying to Freedom Starts With a Willingness to Forgive
– a great article on forgiveness