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