Take the Risk of Forgiveness

This homily was given at St. Joseph Parish, Roseburg, OR on the memorial of St. Clare, August 11, 2022. The audio is available here.

We spoke earlier this week about the need to recognize that the Lord has all the money, and all the time, and that we do not.

But when we feel short—when we feel that time is short, perhaps, or our budget is very constrained, and we have very little to give—we take the risk.

We’re the first to step out in faith, giving what little we have and trusting in the Lord, who has it all.

His bank account is infinite; His schedule is completely open!

The Lord has it all.

And so we trust that He will provide for us when we step out in faith.

That is poverty of spirit.

It’s accepting the limitations that we have as human beings.

We’re very finite.

We’re very limited.

And if we’re honest with ourselves, there’s very little that we can do.

But the Lord calls us to step out and do our little bit, trusting that He will provide the rest.

Now, one area that we human beings are very, very limited indeed is our capacity to forgive.

And the Lord knows that.

Our human hearts, since the time of our first parents, Adam and Eve, are very inclined to hold a grudge—towards resenting, holding on to the bitterness of past wounds and past hurts that have been inflicted upon us and desiring to seek some kind of vengeance.

Or even just by holding that wound in the heart, somehow, to avenge ourselves upon the person who’s wounded us in the past.

What the Lord says in today’s Gospel are very serious words indeed.

“So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless you forgive your brother or your sister from your heart.”

It’s not that God will avenge Himself upon us, but our holding onto that grudge is itself the precondition of vengeance.

They say that if you hold onto a grudge, you drink the poison and you expect the other person to die.

So the Lord calls us to step out in forgiveness, to be the first to take the risk.

Although our capacity is very little, we find that when we step out, desiring to forgive, the Lord provides what our human nature does not possess in itself.

God is all forgiving, all merciful.

He is the one who forgives us our sins and our transgressions.

Today, at this Holy Mass, as we receive the Lord in Holy Communion, I ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to each and every one of us one person in our lives whom we need to forgive.

It may be a past abuser, or someone who has done great harm to us.

For some of you, it may be God.

And for some of us, it may be ourselves.

There can be a real need to forgive ourselves for our past sins or for the past things that we’ve done wrong.

So whoever it is, Holy Spirit, we ask you to reveal that to every person here present.

I’ll invite you, in a time of brief silence after this homily, to call to mind the ways that you’ve been wounded by that person.

Like the master in today’s Gospel, give an accounting of the debt that’s owed, and then offer that up to the Lord.

Read out the list of transgressions, the list of wounds, the ways you’ve been hurt, here in the presence of the Lord.

And then, as we receive Holy Communion today, ask Jesus to forgive that person.

If you like, you can use the words of Jesus from the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

In doing so, we become the first to take the risk of forgiveness.

And as Jesus forgives first, we too can unite ourselves to Him and say:

“Father, with you and with your Son, I forgive this person.”

“You know my capacity is limited, but my desire is there, my will is there, to forgive as you forgive.”

“And, Lord, I ask you to bless this person.”

“Bless them in the ways that they wounded me.”

“Bless them in the same ways.”

Then, together, as one family in Christ, with Our Lord Jesus and Our Lady, with St. Clare and all the saints, we will come together in heaven to rejoice in the forgiveness and love of our all-merciful God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.

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