Homily for the 24th Sunday in ordinary time - Barriers to Forgiveness
Intro: I have the most wonderfully forgiving gps. If I go off course, it just says one beautiful word: recalculating. I would almost expect it to swear at me. "You are a knucklehead. how could you be so careless? You shouldn't even be driving. Put your phone down and pay attention. They should have it like our father's voice: "That's a monumentally stupid thing to do." With a GPS, it just starts over. They should call it a God positioning system. It's beautiful
Why is it so difficult to forgive? I did a quick search on the internet, and here are some reasons I found, all of them examples of false reasons:
1. We think, falsely, that we have to accept what they have done
2. We think, falsely, that we are punishing them with our bitterness
3. We think, falsely, that we have to reconcile with them in order to forgive them.
4. We think, falsely, that they need to make it up to us in order to forgive them.
5. We think, falsely, that forgiveness will weaken us.
On this last note, consider a scene from the movie Schindler's List about Oscar Schindler. He's having a conversation with Amond Goth, a concentration camp commandant, and a very evil man. Both had been drinking;
Amond: "I look at you, you’re never drunk. That’s real control. Control is power.
Oscar: Is that why they fear us?"
Amon: "They fear us because we have the power to kill."
Oscar: "They fear us because we have the power to kill arbitrarily. A man commits a crime and he should know better. We have him killed and we feel pretty good about it. Or we kill him ourselves and feel even better about it. But that’s not power. That’s justice. That’s different than power. Power is when we have every justification to kill and we don’t."
Amond: "You think that’s power?"
Oscar: "That’s what the emperor said. A man stole something, he’s brought before the emperor. He throws himself down on the ground, he begs for mercy. He knows he’s going to die. And the emperor pardons him. This worthless man. He lets him go."
Amond: "I think you are drunk."
Oscar: "That’s power, Amond,"
This exchange made me think. The real reason, perhaps, that we don't forgive is because we've been hurt, sometimes so badly. Maybe in order for us to forgive, we have to allow the hurt to heal. That's my prayer for you, that whatever hurt you have experienced in your life, you will be healed to the point when you can forgive. Yes, it may require a miracle, but our God is a God of miracles.
Whenever we go to confession, we are asked to express our sorrow for sin to receive forgiveness. Sometimes, it's expressed as an act of contrition. I want to conclude my homily with the traditional act of contrition, but I'd like to make one small addition. The traditional act of contrition makes no mention of the harm our sin has caused, to others and even to ourselves. I think this needs to be corrected.
Here's the tradition act of tradition:
O My God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee, I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell but most importantly because they offend thee my God who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve with the help of thy grace to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life.
Here's a newer act of contrition from the revised rite of penance (both are valid of course):
I am sorry for my sins with all my heart.
In choosing to do wrong
and failing to do good,
I have sinned against you
whom I should love above all things.
I firmly intend, with your help,
to do penance,
to sin no more,
and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.
Our Saviour Jesus Christ suffered and died for us.
In his name, my God, have mercy.
Here's my revision with the additional consideration of harm to others:
I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong
and failing to do good, I have sinned against you
whom I should love above all things.
Not only have I offended you, in some cases my sin has also caused me to harm others.
I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more,
to avoid whatever leads me to sin
and to pray for the healing of those most affected by my sin, including myself.
Our Saviour Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In his name, my God, have mercy.