Finding Forgiveness

“Finding Forgiveness”

In today’s gospel (Matthew 5:20-16), Jesus raises the bar on our behavior:

Jesus said to his disciples:

“I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that

of the scribes and Pharisees,

you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.

 

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,

You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.

But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother

will be liable to judgment,

and whoever says to his brother,

‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin,

and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.

 

The interesting statement here is that Jesus takes the sixth commandment – “You shall not kill” and raises the bar on our behavior as disciples. Read literally, people can feel very confident that they will not break that commandment, however Jesus tells us that the sixth commandment is more than just the taking of a life. Jesus is asking us to be more forgiving and to mend our broken relationships through forgiveness. This speaks to our heart and not to our actions. Jesus is asking us to cherish our relationships with our “brothers” and reconcile when there is a problem. This is all about forgiveness and the path to forgiveness is paved with love, respect, and acceptance of each other. Now the sixth commandment doesn’t look so easy, does it? Sometimes words hurt more than physical violence. The harmful words of a loved one can be carried throughout a person’s life and alter their mindset and behavior in staggering ways. Sometimes the words spoken aren’t meant to be hurtful, but are interpreted that way. It’s amazing, but sometimes the hardest words to say to those you love is “I’m sorry”. Read the scripture passage. Those that are not forgiving “will be liable to judgment”. When we disrespect or hurt someone aren’t we also in a way judging them? Let’s leave judgment to the ultimate judge and focus on getting along with each other, caring for one another, and forgiving each other.

 

The second interesting aspect of today’s gospel also speak to the condition of our hearts:

Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,

and there recall that your brother

has anything against you,

leave your gift there at the altar,

go first and be reconciled with your brother,

and then come and offer your gift.

Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him.

Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge,

and the judge will hand you over to the guard,

and you will be thrown into prison.

Amen, I say to you,

you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”

 

Our worship of God at Mass is a manifestation of what lies in our hearts and the willingness to be more loving. It is hard to imagine that our hearts will be turned more towards God and be more loving if we are not able to forgive our brothers:

 

leave your gift there at the altar,

go first and be reconciled with your brother,

and then come and offer your gift.

 

Jesus is telling us here that reconciliation is the key towards a more loving heart and with our hearts hardened by lack of forgiveness, coming to worship and be reconciled with God when we haven’t been able to reconcile with our brothers isn’t going to bring us closer to God. Our God is a God of relationships. He is a uniter. Do we behave the same way? Can we forgive someone for something that may have hurt us to our core? Jesus gave us a tremendous example of forgiveness when from the cross he asked God “forgive them Father for they do not know what they do”. If we think being the one to cross that bridge to reconcile a relationship is hard, here is our Lord, suffering and near death asking for forgiveness for those who have persecuted, tortured, and eventually killed him. Think about that the next time someone says something that is hurtful. Maybe we can even use the same words to help heal our hearts and condition our hearts for forgiveness – “forgive them Father for they do not know what they do.”
God Bless

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