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Scripture reflection: Ongoing forgiveness

September 14, 2017
Deacon Faiva Po’oi

In the first reading, a wise teacher encourages us to be merciful, when we forgive, we reflect the gracious love and merciful character of God. In the second reading, St. Paul insists that we belong to Christ throughout our lives, as well as when we die. In the Gospel, Jesus teaches Peter, his disciples and all of us today that forgiveness of others must be mutual and unending.

The late American Scripture scholar Eugene Maly offers tidbits to chew on regarding forgiveness. Despite the natural inclination of human nature, God tells us to forgive; God’s nature is a forgiving one, and anyone who belongs to God must imitate this attitude; God forgives because God is a forgiving God, not because anyone deserves forgiveness.

A mother pleaded with Napoleon Bonaparte to pardon her son a serious offense. Napoleon said, “This is his second offense; justice demands he be severely punished.” The mother said, “I’m not asking for justice; I am pleading for mercy.” Napoleon replied, “Your son does not deserve mercy.” The mother said: “Sir, if he deserved it, it wouldn’t be mercy. I am asking for mercy.” At this, the French general said, “I will show him mercy.” The question for us would be: What keeps us from being more merciful in our thoughts, words, and action?

God’s forgiveness of us knows no limits and is always granted. Anything less in our forgiveness of one another brings the same judgment against us that Jesus renders against the “wicked servant.”

The core of the responsorial psalm is its refrain: “The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger and rich in compassion.” This phrase was first spoken not about God but by God as direct revelation to Moses: “this is my name – Lord – this is who I am – merciful, gracious, compassionate (Exodus 34:5-6) The phrase appears so often in the Old Testament that it is called “The little creed,” a capsule profession of who God is and how God relates to us.

In singing this psalm we profess “The little creed” as our own. We name the nature of God. And we proclaim the nature of our covenant relationship with one another. In the second reading, it speaks in its own way of forgiveness: “None of us lives for oneself” because we “live for the Lord.” Forgiveness is absolutely central to the message of the whole Gospel.

Forgiveness is only attainable with the grace of God. The following was found in the clothing of a dead child at Ravensbruck concentration camp. “O Lord, remember not only those of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted upon us; instead, remember all the fruits we have born because of this suffering – our fellowship, our loyalty to one another, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown from this trouble. When our persecutors come to be judged by you, let all of these fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness.”

Not a single one of us deserves to be forgiven. Ever yet God’s grace and love is so great that God longs to forgive. Part of the upcoming Communion rite is praying the Our Father. In that prayer we say, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” No more, no less. Let that commitment we make to forgive 77 times be the word we say upon receiving the Holy Eucharist.

Po’oi_Deacon Favia - web 100x125Deacon Po’oi serves at St. Timothy Parish, San Mateo.

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