THURSDAY HOMILY: Choosing to Live the Way of Forgiving Love
To use imagery regularly used by the early fathers of the Church, the Cross is the new tree planted in the midst of a new garden that was formed from His wounded side - the Church. The Church is a seed of the Kingdom to come, bringing heaven to earth and earth to heaven. Those who live in that Garden go into a world desperately in need of salvation. We carry forward the work of the Savior in both word and deed. We are being made new, re-created in Him, daily. We are invited to live in a way that His forgiving love is spread throughout the world until he returns. Living in His Body, His Church, we now cultivate the fruit that alone will free the entire human race, forgiving love.
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P>CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - Today we hear the instruction the Master gave to his disciples when they ask Him to teach them how to pray. (Mt. 6:7-15) His response shows us the inseparable connection between how we pray and how we live.
From this we derive the wonderful form prayer called the Our Father.
I want to focus on just two lines from this instruction, "and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us" and "If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions."
There is an old saying; "To err is human but to forgive is Divine" It is true, as far as it goes. The Christian faith has altered the equation. In Jesus Christ, the Divine became human and calls us to participate in divinity. Jesus has bridged heaven and earth. He invites you and me to a new way of seeing, hearing, loving and living.
He moves us from justice alone to justice perfected or completed by mercy. How? He chose the way of forgiving love and makes it possible for us to now do the same. He embraced the world in forgiving love when He stretched out His Arms on that Cross.
To use imagery regularly used by the early fathers of the Church, the Cross is the new tree planted in the midst of a new garden that was formed from His wounded side - the Church. The Church is a seed of the Kingdom to come, bringing heaven to earth and earth to heaven.
Those who live in that Garden go into a world desperately in need of salvation. We carry forward the work of the Savior in both word and deed. We are being made new, re-created in Him, daily. We are being invited to live in a way that His forgiving love is spread throughout the world until he returns.
Living in His Body, His Church, we now cultivate the fruit that alone will free the entire human race, forgiving love. Through our choices we participate in the continuing mission of this God-Man who still pours Himself out in love on behalf of the entire human family.
In Jesus Christ, we are called to a new way of living as pilgrims on this earth that still awaits the fullness of His redemption. We are invited to embrace that tree, the cross, and bring the world to its promise of forgiving love. There at the Cross we learn to live our lives in Him. There at the Cross we learn the way of forgiving love.
In another account in Matthews Gospel, "Peter approached Jesus and asked him, "Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?" Jesus answered, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times." (Matt. 18: 21-15)
Peter asked the Lord a simple question, "how often must I forgive?" His proposal of seven times was radically different than the prevailing wisdom concerning forgiveness. Jesus told him - and us - to choose the way of unlimited forgiveness.
The teaching expands the application of today's Gospel. Our forgiveness is to be modeled after the forgiveness offered by Jesus. In fact, when we learn to live our lives in Him we begin to grasp the mystery which the Apostle Paul so beautifully expressed:
"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Gal. 2:20)
We are called to forgive even those who have harmed us and there is no limit to how many times! This challenge cannot be accomplished without God's grace. However, with His grace, it is not only possible but is the Christian way of life.
Of course, living it runs right into the inevitable conflicts we face in our daily lives, what Blessed John Paul II called a struggle between freedoms.
"History is not simply a fixed progression toward what is better - but rather, an event of freedom. Specifically, it is a struggle between freedoms that are in mutual conflict: a conflict between two loves - the love of God to the point of disregarding self and the love of self to the point of disregarding God (John Paul II, Christian Family in the Modern World, n. 6)"
There is a golden calf around which our age now worships is the idol of choice. When freedom is exercised without reference to truth and our obligations to one another, it becomes a counterfeit that leads to the slavery of sin.
Some choices are always wrong and even if we are free to make them, we must not. In fact, by choosing what is wrong we become slaves to sin. St. Paul reminded the Galatians: "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." (Gal 5:1)
What do we do when others hurt us? Who who are we becoming in those choices?
The recurring questions of that garden called Eden still echo in our daily lives. How will we exercise our freedom? At which tree will we make our choices? Will it be the tree of disobedience, where the first Adam chose against love or the tree on Golgotha's hill where the second Adam, the Son of God, chose the obedience of forgiving Love?
The choice we are invited to make today is to choose live the way of forgiving love. Men and women who live this way trod the path of peace. They demonstrate real freedom. They bring others to the Hill where it is all made possible by the One who stretched His Arms out and forgave us all.
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