For John, BLUF: Forgiveness is the gift we give that also helps us to live better. Nothing to see here; just move along.
The Gospel Reading this last Sunday, Palm or Passion Sunday, was from St Luke's Gospel (Lk 22:14—23:56), which the Homilist told us is about forgiveness.
There was an article in the Spring 2013 edition of Spiritual Life, a publication of the Discalced Carmelite Friars down in Washington, DC. The article was "Forgiveness: How Much and What kind?", by Father Jerome Knies, OSA, STD. I would like to tell you it is available on line, but alas it is not, not even at the publication's Web Site.
The author starts out by drawing a thread from the American transcendentalists of 200 years ago to American today and American exceptionalism. He is concerned that:
The sin is not with the ideology of individualism. The sin is not having the faintest idea anything is wrong. It is the innocent presumption of innocence.And that is a danger with American exceptionalism.
From there the writer moves to the parable of the unforgiving debtor (Matthew, Chapter 18), which has the debtor forgiven his debt, but then not forgiving someone who owes him. The article author goes back to Genesis (Gn 4:23-24) to bring forth Lamech, who claims the right to inflict vengeance seventy times sevenfold. That is a lot. The author then takes the parable and says:
If Peter is not prepared to forgive even a Lamech, Peter is an unforgiving debtor. The obvious irony in this teaching is that Jesus is telling Peter that God will be more cruel than Lamech if Peter does not forgive from his heart. But then if one is forgiving from one's heart, one also knows in one's heart that our "heavenly Father" is far more merciful than can be imaged by us, the sinners we are.So, forgiveness is important, but it is not just our forgiveness of others. We must also forgive ourselves and be prepared to receive forgiveness.
We do not need forgiveness such that it pretends we are innocent when we are not, as if it would make any difference to pretend we are not paralyzed when we are. It is more than some kind of divine pretense. If Jesus had stopped after telling the paralytic that his sins were forgiven and gone on his way, the paralytic would never have walked home on his own (Mt 9:2ss). A child needs to be forgiven by our forgetting the misdeed, but the older we become, the more we need healing attention to ourselves. The paralytic received something far more precious than a ritual pardon. It was something to see:Forgiveness is vital to all moving forward. I have heard it suggested that a lack of forgiveness can cause us physical as well as emotional problems. I don't doubt it.But to prove to you that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins....Then he said to the paralytic, "Get up, pick up your bed and go off home." And the man got up and went home.(Mt9-6)
We need to cleanse ourselves by forgiving others, even those who were stupid or hurtful.
But I say this to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.Regards — Cliff