Today’s Gospel summarises something that was very new to the religious leaders and people in Jesus’ day. They had a law which said, ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth!’ The teaching that Jesus puts forward was very radical, and is still radical in today’s world, with our continued dog-eat-dog mentality. The process of salvation, which Jesus had come to establish, would be based on unconditional forgiveness! Therefore, if we are to be part of this process we must be in the front line in aspiring to be tolerant, forgiving and loving. That’s a mighty big challenge!
There is an extraordinary power in forgiveness, gentleness, meekness, and love. ‘Blessed are the meek’ says Jesus, ‘they shall possess the earth.’ (Matthew 5:4) We have all seen movies, read books or heard first-hand accounts of the lives of people like, St. Thomas Moore, Mahatma Ghandi or Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa; the bully cannot deal with the power of the one who will not strike back, and therefore, such people are either killed, or sidelined, tortured or laughed at as the only way of stopping them. It reminds me of a little saying which I read on a Sugar packet at the local Coffee Club Café recently, ‘To err is human, to forgive is divine.’ Forgiveness, which is honest and true can bring forth divine gifts in others, as well as in ourselves…one might have to be patient, and wait some time, but if we hang in, and hand over to the Lord what is in us that makes it hard to forgive…. we are then moving into miracle territory. Forgiveness does not happen of its own accord! Forgiveness is to do with Divinity! The greatest sign of forgiveness and love is Jesus and His Cross! ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.’ Luke 23:34.
Forgiveness is like salt, which in the olden days was used to keep food from going bad! If we refurbish our inner selves and be nourished by the God’s Word and Sacrament, all that is ‘Divine’ within us will be preserved and hence be ‘on tap’ to deal with in dealing with the ups and downs of daily life. The fruits of it will be a power, which can dissolve resentment, it can dilute harmful attitudes before they take hold of us, and change us. Otherwise its opposite can cause untold damage to others and to ourselves.
There is something else which is mixed up in this crockpot of forgiveness and a contrite heart and that is respect for each other. There is something very nasty at work in our world today…..it manifests itself in the way some Church Shepherds, Religious Superiors, Parish Priests, Moderators, Parish Council leaders, Chancery staff, Administrators of Retreat Houses, and Business Leaders and Personnel Heads and the list could go on like a Litany….the response being, FORGIVE US O LORD! There is this dreadful lack of human courtesy and respect for one another in the Church and in our Society. This ‘take a number’ mentality or your call is important to us, we will get back to you within two days, smacks of impersonal and corporation relating styles at its worst; and often it is rudeness and ignorance in the ways of relating to others. Why is the corporate mentality eating into the fabric of human goodness and niceties?? Why is it that the common respectful tones of thank you, you have done a great job, thank you for your time and energy seem to be becoming scarce in our relationships? It seems to me that with the advent of High Tech’ communications, we are losing the plot when it comes to human pleasantness……it seems to be out the window! Jesus the foot washer, suffering servant, the one who does not condemn is being lost within a corporation mentality which is growing in the Church in the 1st World!
The next aspect within the Church Governance and so called pastoral relationships is the failure to be really human with one another. There is far too many check lists to be ticked, Monkey Questionaries given out which cramps the opportunities for conversations within groups, and one to one in the Church today. We are not talking and listening to each other in ‘real time’. What has happened to the old ‘How are you going?’ ‘What’s on your mind?’ What have been some of the graced moments in Ministry for you lately?’ What are some of the challenges that we can help you with in your Pastoral, Family interpersonal life?’ So much of this does not even get a ‘look in’ these days. In the Gospel today it says, ‘Treat others as you would like them to treat you.’ As an old priest of 45 years of ministry, I see a definite decline in our one to one respect for each other.
There needs to be more ‘listening’ to each other, and less programmes given to us without knowing where we are at! What can assist in remoulding us, enabling us to be more humane towards each other……It seems to me that we ought bury ourselves in Psalm 50 and then rise to Micah 6:8. ‘All that is asked of your humankind, is to act justly, love tenderly and to walk humbly with God and each other’. Let’s get back to the Gospel……
There is only one condition laid down by Jesus when it comes to forgiveness…’ Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.’ Then it boils down to practical terms…how can we forgive and love others better? Maybe we might need to love and forgive ourselves a bit more; then taking to heart the wise and ‘lived’ words of St. Paul, ‘ I can do all things through Him who gives me the strength,’ let the 3rd verse of today’s responsorial Psalm seep into our bones…’ The Lord is compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy.’ Ps 102.
Fr Kevin with his companion, Shauna.