Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today’s Gospel is one we cannot hear often enough. The call to forgiveness is vitally important in our world, in our community, and especially in our lives. Forgiveness, offered even in the most challenging situations, releases us from burdens and influences our whole environment. Jesus’ challenge to forgive seventy times seven times is not strictly numerical, nor is it easy. Yet He calls us to forgive and to forgive without counting the cost. The ability to forgive is both an act of the will and a God-given grace. In other words, I must choose to forgive those who hurt me. I must opt in, actively deciding that I will extend forgiveness to others. At the same time, I cannot make that noble, beautiful, holy choice without the aid of God’s grace. God who forgives perfectly is the one who makes it possible for me to forgive, even if my forgiveness is imperfect. In fact, it is precisely because of this human weakness that Jesus tells us to forgive so much – the more we practice forgiveness, the better we get at it, the more perfect our human efforts become. Aided by God’s infinite grace, we learn to forgive.
In our effort to imitate Christ, we ought to forgive those who sin against us. This, in fact, is exactly how Jesus teaches us to pray in the Our Father: “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” How powerful those words are in light of the Gospel we hear this weekend! In this great prayer, we ask God to forgive us for our own sins according to the measure with which we forgive other people. If this is the case, I must become more forgiving! Thus, the challenge of forgiveness directly impacts my own spiritual well-being.
Finally, if we understand the old Latin maxim “Nemo dat quod non habet” (“I cannot give what I do not have”), we will recognize that if we are to forgive from the bottom of our hearts, we must receive forgiveness ourselves. If we have been forgiven, we understand the free gift that forgiveness entails and we appreciate the mercy we have received. Thus we should seek forgiveness always! Have you hurt someone in word or action? Seek their forgiveness as soon as you can. Do you stand in need of God’s mercy? Seek His forgiveness in the sacrament of Confession as soon as you can! Jesus gives us the means to receive mercy for our souls. Confession is one of the most precious gifts imaginable. Here at St. Pius, confessions are available every Wednesday evening and Saturday afternoon, and additionally by request – just stop a priest. Likewise, there are several churches in the area that offer daily confessions: St. John the Evangelist in Stamford, St. Mary’s in New Haven, Immaculate Conception in Waterbury. For you commuters, St. Patrick’s Cathedral has daily confessions, as do many churches in the Big Apple. Take advantage of the great mercy that God wants us to receive, and, being forgiven, become and instrument of forgiveness in the world!