From The Hand of Fr. Aaron Ferris For October 21, 2018

We saw last week how Jesus responds to sin with forgiveness and reconciliation. As remembers of His Body, He sets the pattern for how we are to respond to sin. Also as members of His Body, He gives us to grace to do what He does. We will get into what that means for us, but first we need to look at some of the misconceptions regarding forgiveness and reconciliation.

People often say that they have to forgive and forget. That sentiment is only partially true. Yes, Jesus commands us to forgive, but He never commands us to forget. If He did, it would be an impossible commandment to carry out. We remember many things, good and bad, and we do not have the power to forget something at will.

Chances are if someone’s sin was truly serious, you will remember it for the rest of your life. That memory, though, does not have to have power in your life. In Christ we all have the power to release the debt of those who sin against us, to not hold it against them. Every time the memory comes back we, have the opportunity to act like Christ by forgiving the offender again and again.

Another misconception of forgiveness and reconciliation is that it somehow minimizes the evil and harm done by someone else. It comes across in different ways, such as, “If I forgive them, then I am saying it was okay, or wasn’t that bad.” This is absolutely false.

Forgiveness has as its basic premise the fact that sin is harmful, and some sins are more harmful than others. If it takes Jesus dying a horrific death on the Cross for our sins to be forgiven, then sin is definitely serious business. This means forgiveness is serious business. It doesn’t minimize the seriousness of sin; rather, it shows the even greater power we have in Christ to overcome sin in our lives and in the lives of others.

Another misconception about forgiveness is that it means automatically being reconciled with the sinner. Nope. Some sins are quite serious, and many people neither repent of their sins nor seek to change their lives in any way. You can and should forgive these people, but it doesn’t mean you have to be restored to a close relationship with them. That might only happen in the Resurrection. It is certainly important to strive for reconciliation in this life, but sadly it is often not possible.

With this misconception comes the idea that for you to forgive someone, the other person must first repent and apologize. Again, nope. From the Cross Jesus forgives his murderers (Luke 23:34), and, while he is being stoned, St. Stephen forgives his murderers (Acts 7:60). Forgiveness is our act of mercy in the face of evil, and forgiveness doesn’t require the offender to seek it out. In fact, our forgiveness helps to open the door for God’s grace to transform the sinner, for them to seek out the healing mercy of God.

With these misconceptions out of the way, we will turn next week to the work of forgiveness that we are called to do.

St. Anthony
St. Anthony
Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, St. Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church strives to be “A Parish with a Heart.” Using our time, talents and treasures, our parish family is dedicated to the faith formation of our youth and living the gospel in our community.
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