St. Michael's Parish - Cobourg

To Forgive is Divine -Homily December 20, 2015

To Forgive is Divine                                                                          -Homily December 20, 2015

 

John the Baptist proclaims the good news. He has a message for all in general and for each in particular. There is not only a message about works (ethics or morals), but also a message about a person, a doctrine. The good news is not only about works to do, but also about someone to believe, and something to believe: “Jesus is the Messiah, not I,” says John the Baptist.

 

In his message to each in particular, he speaks to tax collectors and to soldiers, telling each of them what they should do. In his message for all in general, he speaks about mercy. He says that everyone who has two coats must share with the one who has none. The same with food. Compassion and mercy are an obligation, because in the good news love is a commandment: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” How can I say that I love my neighbour if I let him suffer.

 

I would like to speak about mercy, and how mercy has its origin in love. The key to be merciful and to forgive is to love people. Today, however, instead of speaking about sharing with the poor, I will speak about a spiritual work of mercy, which is to forgive the offences or shortcomings of others.

 

We love our children. We will not easily believe someone who tells us that our children did something wrong. We will hardly accept that our children are not good. We will defend them. If people insist, we will ask for proofs. And even if they have proofs that the behaviour of our children was not right, we will still try to find the way to excuse them, we will be inclined to think that they did that because they probably did not know, or at the most out of human weakness.

 

Suppose the worst: there are so many proofs that it is necessary to believe that your child did wrong. On top of that, your own child comes and says: “Yes, mom, they are right, and what I told you before was just to cover myself.” Maybe in that case you will tell your child a couple of things… But will you stop loving your child for that? Will you wish evil to him because he did not act as a good person? Will you not rather hope that he will change, and help him to do so? And even if you have to punish him, will you not perhaps be as careful as possible, in order not to lose his love, and not to do more harm than good with your correction?

 

Why do we not do that with other people, when they hurt us? Maybe another question will be easier to answer: why are we so merciful with our children? Because we love them. Love always does good to people. If my child is healthy, I feed him, if he is sick, I cure him, if he is right, I praise him, if he is wrong, I correct him, but for the love of God, I will always do anything that is good for him, and I will never hurt him or wish him evil. Love is the reason for mercy. The reason we do not forgive sometimes, is because we perhaps do not love our neighbour as ourselves, as we love our children.

 

Why should I love my neighbour as myself? Well, it is a commandment. When people talk about Christianity as just the religion of love, I wonder if they realize how demanding love is, how demanding it is to be a mother or a father. We need to love our neighbour.  How do I love the one who does wrong to me?

 

It is very difficult to feel good with a person who did wrong to you. It may take a lot of time and efforts, or it may never happen. But love is about actions, not feelings. I will propose some actions. They say that the more you act in a certain way, the more you excite the corresponding feelings. If you practice these things, you may be surprised how after a while you may find yourself loving sincerely the one who was so difficult to love.

 

Pray for the conversion of people who hurt you. Pray for their eternal salvation. Do not speak out of anger about the offences received, keep it for yourself. Picture the offender as your own son or daughter. Speak well about those people, without saying lies of course. Excuse them: do not believe easily when someone tells you something wrong about others. Find excuses as you would with your children: maybe they did not mean, maybe there was a misunderstanding, maybe that person had a very bad day, or was dealing with very difficult issues, or just had bad news. Maybe that person is a human being, capable of weaknesses just like you. Think that the Lord will judge you in the way you now judge that person. Think that the anger you feel now, God will feel then when you will be in his presence. My anger now is not right, but the anger of God on that day will be right: “Should you not have had pity on your brother, as I had pity on you?” (cf. Matthew 18:23-35).

 

Always hope. This one is difficult. Always be open to the possibility of change in that person. “Someone did bad” does not necessarily mean “Someone is bad,” he will never change, he is a lost case, etc. We do not consider our children evil even if we know that they made mistakes. Go and do likewise with your neighbour. Think that they also do good things, and that in the future they may do more good things. Take away the label from your neighbour, and allow him or her to start afresh. You may have to do it more than once, maybe every day. God does the same, every day, with ourselves: “One day Fr. Andrew will change, let us wait a little bit longer.” That is why they say that a person becomes like God when he or she is able to forgive. To do wrong is human, to forgive is divine.

 

May our Blessed Mother give us the grace to forgive, to have the feelings of Jesus in our heart.   –Fr. Andrew