7th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C, Sunday 24th February 2019
As hard as forgiving others could be, it remains central to our Christian faith since by forgiveness we have come to share in God’s life.
How Does it Make Me Feel?
It must be said however, that forgiving those who have wronged us often makes us appear and feel weak and vulnerable as though we have been denied justice. We often want to see the guilty or our enemies suffer for their sins. The world around us tells us that innocence is proved by the sufferings of the guilty. Interestingly, the opposite is the case when we are the guilty ones, because we want to be pardoned. So, why these contradictory dispositions within us?
Loving Our Enemies Unrealistic?
The invitation of the Gospel of today ‘to love our enemies’ could appear unrealistic and idealistic. In a sense, it is an ideal (but not unrealistic) to which we are called and upon which we must fix our gaze. But as soon as we hear Jesus say, “treat others as you would like them treat you”, we immediately see that we cannot easily discard this invitation and remain truthful to ourselves because we all want to be forgiven and loved even when guilty. So, we recognise an innate desire for forgiveness in all human hearts even though it remains a struggle for all of us.
But how do we tap into the grace of forgiveness which is divine, and move from this level of recognising the importance of forgiveness to being able to love and forgive our enemies?
Calling to Mind Our State When We Were Forgiven
Firstly, we need to remember that it was not until after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit which led the apostles into all truth (Jn 16:13) that this invitation to love and forgive our enemies made sense to them. Before then, the apostles would rather choose to call down fire to consume their enemies (Lk 9:51-55). At the Pentecost however, when the Holy Spirit (God’s love) was poured into their hearts (Rm 5:5), they experienced the immensity of God’s love and forgiveness and were moved to Love and forgive even their enemies. They saw clearly that Jesus died for them while they were still children of wrath (Eph 2:3), ungodly and enemies (Rm 5: 6-10) and all forsook him (the innocent Victim) and fled (Mk 14:50).
On surveying this overwhelming love, they immediately realised that their call could not be anything different from what they had received from God, and that is a call to forgive (see Lk 7:47). Hence, to love our enemies, regardless of the difficulties, is not only a sign to the world but the fruit of our own appropriation and appreciation of the undeserved and unmerited forgiveness upon which we stand. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit we have received in baptism will enlighten our minds to comprehend the breadth, length, height and depth and to know the love of Christ (Eph 3:18) which we have received undeservedly, so that we may be able to set free and raise up our enemies and those who have treated us badly by forgiving and loving them. If we are open, God can accomplish this with us. However, we need to be patient with ourselves.