Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Forgive and Forgive Again

By Beth DeCristofaro

So Joshua said to the children of Israel, “Come here and listen to the words of the LORD, your God. This is how you will know that there is a living God in your midst, who at your approach will dispossess the Canaanites. The ark of the covenant of the LORD of the whole earth will precede you into the Jordan. When the soles of the feet of the priests carrying the ark of the LORD, the Lord of the whole earth, touch the water of the Jordan, it will cease to flow; for the water flowing down from upstream will halt in a solid bank.”  (Joshua 3: 9, 11, 13)

Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. (Matthew 18:21-22)

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am a sinner.  Create in me a heart filled with mercy, holy fire and joy.

It’s not that I don’t believe in miracles.  I’ve seen a few.  There have been patients I’ve visited in the hospital expecting the “code blue” call any minute only to watch them be discharged home to recuperate with families.  There are accounts in the news about children pulled dead from ice covered ponds only to be resuscitated hours later.  And I’ve seen giraffes, platypuses and gazed with wonder on the geometrically perfect web of a garden spider.  God’s handiwork is front and center everyday if we look.  But I can’t help thinking that if I was in the desert with Joshua,  I would probably scrutinize that wall of motionless water and hurry my kids across as fast as possible.

Perhaps that is why I have difficulty accepting Jesus’ words to Peter about forgiving.  It’s difficult to forgive but it is even more challenging to me to believe minute by minute that God will forgive me seventy times seven.  I’m regularly too busy doing something for which I find it hard to forgive myself.

In a 2013 Angelus address, Pope Francis said so exquisitely “This is all the Gospel, here; this is Christianity! But this is not sentimentalism or bland 'do-goodism'; on the contrary, mercy is the true force that can save man and the world from the 'cancer' of sin, from moral and spiritual malaise. Only love can fill the gaps, the negative abysses that evil opens up in our hearts and in history. Only love can do this, and this is the joy of God.” [i]

Pray for someone with whom you are angry or estranged.  Ask God for the strength to forgive, then do it.  Let that person know.  Open the door of mercy.

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