Thursday, 6 November 2014

21st Sunday after Pentecost 2 Nov 2014 Sermon

21st Sunday after Pentecost 2.11.14 Complete Forgiveness

Today would normally be All Souls Day, but because it falls on a Sunday, the day of Resurrection, its observance will be kept tomorrow.

However, we can still think about the souls and pray for them.

The souls in Purgatory have been forgiven for their sins, but are not yet ready for Heaven because they still carry some scars from those sins.

To enter Heaven it is necessary to be free of all imperfection.

In the light of today’s Gospel we can think of one imperfection which just about everyone would suffer from: namely, the difficulty of forgiving those who offend us.

If the souls in Purgatory have this problem we pray for them. We pray for ourselves that we can sort this out before we die.

An ‘offence’ is anything that upsets us whether the other person was intending it or not, or even aware of it. Forgiveness is more about our state of mind than the other person’s.

Each indulged feeling of resentment is a blockage to the love and mercy of God. It has to be removed, to let the grace flow.

We can use reason. In calmer moments we see that a lot of our resentment is unnecessary and it blows over quickly. eg a minor traffic incident.

Other times we would have good reason to feel aggrieved at the way someone has treated us.

It may be much harder to forgive in these cases, eg someone steals your life savings, or harms someone you love.

But we are told: Bless them that persecute you; bless, and curse not.(Rm 12,14) And: … if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him to drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head.(Rm 12,20)

We find this hard, yet, in the light of today’s parable it should be easy. All we have to do is pass on a small fraction of the love God has already extended to us.

He has forgiven us a large debt; can we not forgive a much smaller debt?

Reason tells us this much,

But we have passions which reason cannot easily control. If we had never sinned our reason would be in control all the time. But our thoughts and feelings are all over the place as a result of sin, and living in a sin-infested world.

We may know our resentments are silly and illogical but we still have them. We need divine grace to clean out the system; to enable us to think and feel as we should.

We need the grace to think like Jesus Himself as He hung on the Cross, and could still pray for those putting Him to death!

That is ordered thinking. If ever someone had a legitimate grievance it was Jesus in this position. This was the most unjust act ever committed in history, or that could ever be conceived, and yet He can calmly forgive it, giving full rein to divine mercy.

We could not do this by ourselves but we can do it with His help.

If we open ourselves to His forgiveness (and He included us when He said: Father, forgive them) then we are going to be able to do the same as Jesus did.

We will have nothing but goodwill towards those who have offended us, wanting them to know the mercy of God as we have known it.

How do we know if we have forgiven everyone? It may not be possible as a lot of our hurts are subconscious and may be way in the past. But it is more the attitude of forgiveness that we are cultivating. We can then forgive everything without necessarily even knowing what it was.

Forgiveness does not require that the offenders are sorry; only that we do not resent what they have done. We pray that they will be sorry where they need to be. We hope they are saved, and we will be glad to see them in Heaven. Strong stuff, but possible in the strength of Christ’s saving sacrifice.

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