21 Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the churchsins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times”.
Sometimes, it can be hard to forgive:
A good man died in a terrible accident while at work. Although his family members were faithful Christians who always sought to follow Christ and to treat others with compassion, they were shattered by his loss. In their grief they began to look for someone or something to blame for his death, although it was just an accident. In time the focus of their pain fell on his co-worker and best friend with whom he had a heated argument right before the accident. The family wrongly believed that their loved one had been distracted due to this disagreement, and that was the cause of the fatal accident.
This belief led the dead man’s family to break off ties with the best friend (with whom they had once been close) and his family, causing a rift between the two grieving families, just when they needed each other’s support the most!
After some time had gone by, the mother of the man who died heard a sermon preached on today’s Gospel…the sermon spoke about forgiveness and how we are called to follow the example of Christ and practice forgiveness in our lives. When she heard this sermon, the mother’s heart softened and she decided to work on forgiving her son’s best friend. However, it was difficult for her to get around her pain, to see that the best friend deserved to be forgiven, for he had meant no harm to her son, and in fact had loved him like a brother (which is why they fought like brothers sometimes do). Finally, the mother talked to the rest of her family, and in time they all offered their forgiveness to the friend and in doing so their relationship began to be restored.
This story could be taken as a touching tale of a family putting aside their pain in order to follow the call of Christ to forgive, and to offer love to a person they believed had ‘sinned’ against them. However the really amazing thing about this story is actually that the best friend who was wrongly accused of causing their loved one’s death not only accepted this family’s forgiveness without a word of rebuke, but also forgave them for how they had treated him…this is where the healing really began, and why the families came to be on good (if not the same) terms once again.
As single parents, there is a good chance that there is someone we were once close to who we felt had sinned against us; for instance many of us did not plan on being single parents when our children were born, but became single parents due to a broken relationship. Some of us may have had relationships broken by distrust, infidelity, abuse, addiction, or all of the above. Others may have lost a partner due to illness, an accident, or some other reason.
These broken relationships may also have led to other issues, such as the loss of family support, financial problems, not to mention the increased stress of having to take on all the responsibilities of being a single parent. In addition, in response to the break-up of the relationship our children may have acted-out in negative ways which only became worse as they entered the tumultuous teen years…which could have opened up whole new wounds for us.
Sometimes it is hard to forgive, even for good people, because the pain that we feel can be too great for us to manage, and will cloud our vision, and overwhelm our feelings. Sometimes all we can feel is resentment, with forgiveness seeming far from our thoughts or capabilities. We can feel like the victims (and very well may be) and as such we look for those who have been unfair to us to make amends…which can be disappointing, as this may never happen; so we stew in our own resentment which never allows us to move on beyond our pain and grief.
However, it is when we find it most hard to forgive that it becomes even more important to follow the call of Christ, to forgive “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times”; meaning that forgiveness is an on-going event, something that never ends, just as the forgiveness given to us by Christ never goes away or runs out…no matter what we do!
Of course forgiveness does not mean that the wrong that occurred is now okay, and it does not even mean that we have to restore a relationship that is too broken to save…what it does mean is that we will let go of past hurts and move forward free of resentments. It can also mean that we can finally see where we too might have gone off track, and make amends for any wrongs we may have done, both in our relationships and with our children.
If we follow the call of Christ and we practice forgiveness in our lives, it becomes easier for us, just as with anything else the more we practice forgiving others the better we become at it.
To forgive those who we feel have sinned against us, is another way for us to make Christ known in our world; another way for us to share the good news of God’s love for us, and a great lesson to teach our children: to let go of resentments that can be a debilitating force in our lives, and that can pull people apart. When we forgive, we call on others to do the same, and in this shared forgiveness, there is reconciliation, the healing of what was once broken, and the freedom to love one another, as God loves us…with acceptance and grace.
Let us Pray
God, thank you for the forgiveness and salvation you have given us as a free gift through the sacrifice of Christ. Help us to follow your call to let go of our past hurts, and to make forgiveness an on-going event of healing. Let us share the gift of Christ with others, even those who may have sinned against us…and in doing so help us find freedom from our resentment, so that we be free to make our own amends, and to rebuild and restore what was once broken as we continue on the journey of our lives.
In your name, amen