Forgiveness: The Key to Heaven

8.16.18 Thurs. wk. 19 – O. T.  (II)

Ezekiel  12:  1– 12

Gospel  Matthew  18: 21 –  19: 1

Peter approaching 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.  That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants.  When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.  Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt.  At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’  Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.  When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount.* He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’  Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’  But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt.  Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair.  His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.  Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’  Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.  So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”

When Jesus* finished these words, he left Galilee and went to the district of Judea across the Jordan.

Homily:  Fr. Mike Murphy                       Forgiveness: The Key to Heaven

Do we truly understand the scope of God’s mercy?  We read in Psalm 102:  “As far as the East is from the West – so far does God put our transgressions away from us”.  When the Lord forgives – there are no reminders of our sinfulness – there are no grudges – there are no paybacks.  When the Lord forgives – He forgives!   In the Gospel, that debt was not “extended” to the first servant  – it was completely written off and forgiven.  He wasn’t asked to make a payment plan – he was just forgiven.

Are we aware of what we have in the gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation?   God wipes away everything.  When we come before the Lord in humility and simplicity, He will always forgive us – and give us a clean slate.  When God forgives – we have freedom – we are unchained by our spiritual prison.  We are given new life because we are pure and as holy as on the day of our Baptism when we receive Sacramental Absolution.  And we also have union with God because now we share in His purity and holiness through His mercy.  We have a share in God’s holiness and we are also called to share in His love, to treat others as God’s mercy has treated us.  We must forgive as completely as God forgives – and not “bury the hatchet and mark the spot” – so we can go back there and dig it up again.  Yet – how often do we hold on to anger?

There are many people who are addicted to resentment.  Entire movements of people have formed because of their resentment toward other people or groups.  We see that in our country – there is no sense of forgiveness or mercy for one another.  We want to ‘stick-it-to-em’.  We want to make other people hurt the way we perceive we have been hurt.  “I was hurt, betrayed and lied to by this person – so I have a right to get back at them”.  We come up with reasons to hold on to our hurts – but the truth is – we have sinned too, and we are not perfect.  No offense our neighbor can do to us – can compare with the personal debt that we owe to God for our sins.  We have been forgiven an enormous debt that we could never repay on our own.  †Jesus repaid the debt for us and God forgave us.

But wait a minute: “If you were hurt like me – you would find it hard to forgive”.  We just refuse to let go of that resentment!  †Jesus forgave from His heart and how was He rewarded?  He was publicly humiliated, mocked and brutalized – betrayed, denied and crucified.  That’s how we repaid ­†Jesus for His forgiveness and mercy.   He has so much love and mercy for us – and He refused to count the cost.  He forgave us from the cross: “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”.  And if †Jesus can forgive – so must we.  “But wait a minute:  I’m not like †Jesus – I’m not God – I’m just human”.  Let’s remember – we are not called to be ‘human’ – we are called to be holy – as God is Holy.  Remember – ‘to err is human – but to forgive is divine’.

In the 1st Letter of Peter we read this.  “You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers – with the precious Blood of Christ”. (1 Peter 1:18)  If we refuse to forgive – we are committing the sin of ‘idolatry’ because we believe we are equal to or better than God.  We say – “God may forgive you – but I don’t.”  Who are we making an idol out of?  Our self and our own hurts.

Let me ask you some questions.  If the spouse who has hurt you so much, is praised in public by the people – are you inwardly angry and looking for justice?  Are you disturbed if – those who have damaged your reputation are honored by others?  Does that bother you?  Do you find yourself dreaming about the other person being shamefully exposed?  Do you keep score of old wounds?  If you answered: “Yes” to any of these questions – you have not closed the book on your resentment and lack the mercy of God.  Without forgiveness we cannot go forward in the ‘Spiritual Life’ – we will walk in perpetual darkness.  We will go around in circles – returning to the hurt – reopening the wound.  When I forgive another person – I experience freedom to walk the ‘Spiritual Life’.  I experience new life. Forgiving others results in God forgiving me.  We will pray this prayer in just a few moments:  “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” (Matt.6:12)  And we also experience union with God, because I become ‘One’ with the mercy and love of God.

Now what’s interesting today is the Scriptures suggest that God’s forgiveness – is not entirely unconditional.  If I don’t share in mercy of God – I lose it.  Remember the words of †Jesus in Mathew’s Gospel: “If you do not forgive others – neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.” (Matt.6:15)  God does put some conditions on His mercy.  A lack of forgiveness leads to spiritual death and we will not share in the life of God.

Here is what Pope Francis wrote: “Mercy is not only an action of the Father – it becomes the criterion for ascertaining who His children are.” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 105)  If you don’t show mercy you cannot claim to be a ‘child of God’.  There is no excuse for a lack of mercy.  We have been transformed by the merciful love of †Jesus and our faith in God compels us to forgive others because forgiveness is ‘life-giving’ – it is to share in the power of Christ to give life.  It is a gift to the receiver.  It is a gift to the giver – because the giver then unites their heart to the heart of †Jesus.

In this parable in the Gospel †Jesus began with these words: “The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a King who decided to settle His accounts”. (Matt. 18:23)  So †Jesus is telling us what the Kingdom of heaven is like.  If we show mercy like the King – we secure our place in heaven.  Again from Pope Francis: “Mercy is the foundation of the Church’s life…it is the KEY to heaven”. (ibid)

In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.