Saturday, September 16, 2017


Deacon Jerry Franze n       Cathedral      September 17, 2017
Sirach 27: 30-28:7     Romans 14:7-9           Matthew 18:21-35

Praised Be Jesus Christ.  Good Morning.
May we take a few moments of silent prayer for those affected
by the tragedy of 9/11 sixteen years ago this past Monday
and for the conversion of those who continue with terrorists acts.
We make these prayers, as always, in the name of Jesus. Amen

Last Sunday’s Gospel was about fraternal correction,
about how, if someone has sinned against us,
we should confront that person,
in order to help correct that fault in the person.
Fraternal Correction – helping a brother or sister to avoid sin.
Yes, that is one of our responsibilities, a spiritual work of mercy,
to admonish the sinner, to correct in a humble manner,
the one who has offended us or actually offended God .
Fr. Maher spoke about this in his homily last week,
about how we have a responsibility to help others to avoid sin.
After hearing Jesus talk about admonishing the sinner,
Peter, in today’s Gospel reading, then asks about forgiveness.
Certainly after admonishing the sinner,
helping one to avoid sin in the future,
forgiving the person who has offended us is the next Christ-like step.
Sirach, in the first reading, says that clinging to hatred,
anger and wrath for someone who has offended us is a sin.
He goes on to say that if we sin in this way, who will forgive our sins.
Jesus used a parable to reinforce the truth
that if we do not forgive others,  who have offended us,
we can’t expect to be forgiven our sins by the Almighty.
It seems that today God wants us to look into our hearts
to examine our own attitude toward forgiveness
of those who have offended us.


*We have all had the experience of being hurt by another,
not necessarily a physical hurt,
but more commonly an emotional hurt.
The offender could be someone who is close to us,
a family member, a friend, even a stranger
or someone who is openly an enemy.
The offense could be a major item,
such as a spouse that had been unfaithful
or a person who has spread a damaging rumor.
Of course it is hard to forgive such a major hurt. 
The hurt could be a minor item
such as a person who criticizes our choice of  friends,
our choice of political candidate, car, clothes etc.
Sometimes we can just get on with it.
Sometimes the minor hurts are relatively easy to forgive.
We can get past what happened
without any need for an actual expression of forgiveness.

On the other hand, we have trouble getting past the major hurts,
and even some minor hurts can just keep nagging at us.
They linger, not even coming up for consideration for forgiveness.
Resentment and looking for revenge feed this lingering;
the resentment and the desire for revenge
can actually replace the feeling of being hurt
and become the heavier baggage
that actually weights the person down and keeps nagging at the person.
Forgiveness then seems to not even be in the arena of possibilities.
A person’s freedom to think and act    can be consumed
by thinking about how to get back at the offender.
It has been said that “To forgive is to set a prisoner free
and to discover that the prisoner was you.”**
The first step to forgiveness is to acknowledge the offense –
what Jesus called the "debts" in the Gospel.
People who have deliberately offended another
owe a kind of debt to the other, the debt to make it right.
We, the offended, have a choice:
continue in our anger and our need for revenge,
which is our attempt to collect the debt,
or we can free ourselves and the offender
by outright forgiving the debt.
If we choose to try to forgive, how do we go about it?


I know that it is hard to forgive.
It has been said that true forgiveness is a miracle;**
it requires God’s intervention.
So, first we might pray for the grace of the Holy Spirit,
that we can step out beyond the box of our natural tendencies
that focus on our hurts and nurture our anger.
Jesus came into the world, suffered and died on the cross
so that we might be free from the bonds of these tendencies.
To forgive we must overcome the effects of original sin
that lead to our resentment, our anger,
our desire for retribution, our refusal to forgive.
We must take our sins of refusal to forgive to the miracle of the cross.
The cross can bring healing, because when we stand before it,
we must recognize our own guilt, our sinfulness.
We owe a huge debt to God that none of us can pay off.
Our sins placed Jesus on the cross where Jesus cancelled our debt.
Our only hope is the cross.
That is the Good News of the Gospel, but there is a condition.
Jesus didn’t say that forgiveness was JUST an option.
We see it in today's Gospel,
and we say it every time we pray the Our Father:
“Forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
By recognizing Jesus' forgiveness we can - and we must
- forgive those who have offended us.
By recognizing our own sinfulness, our need for forgiveness,
we can forgive those who have sinned against us.
It is not easy. It may be the hardest part of following Jesus.


When Jesus speaks about forgiving seven time seventy times,
he means that we are called to continue forgiving a person
who repeatedly offends us.
But it doesn’t mean
that we must continually subject ourselves to the offense.
We should try to avoid circumstances that would lead to the offense.
That statement by Jesus also means that,
if a single offense repeatedly comes back to our consciousness,
our forgiveness for that offense is not complete and final.
We must continue to work on it.  
Forgiveness is not easy, but it is the only way to peace.

More than 30 years ago I read an article on forgiveness
that changed forever my understanding of it.
The article was written by Lewis Smeades,**a Protestant minister,
who had written a book on the subject.
I have already used two quotes from his article:
“True forgiveness is a miracle.”
and “The prisoner released by forgiveness is oneself.”

Here is what he had to say about how we should approach forgiveness
of another person who has offended us.

1. Forgiveness does not change the fact
    that what the offender did was wrong.
    Forgiveness is not just saying, “Oh, I know you didn’t mean it.”
2. Forgiveness does not release an offender
    from paying any civil penalty or debt for what was done.
    BUT, and this is a big BUT,
    it is not the purview of the one offended to extract the penalty.
3. Forgiving does not mean forgetting. 
   The offense must be remembered, at least for a while,
    so that the circumstances can be avoided in the future.
4. Here is what forgiving is in the mind of Lewis Smeades:
    By forgiving that despicable, low-life of a person
    that offended me so terribly,
    I raise that person up from the lowest depths --
    up to the level of a fallible human being just like myself.

Certainly true forgiveness, like fraternal correction, requires
that we recognize our own faults first.

As we, this past week have observed the sixteenth anniversary
of the terrorist attacks in New York city,
a monumental offense,
we might take this opportunity
to examine our own attitudes toward forgiveness.    
Let the fact that Jesus has cancelled our debt to God
be our inspiration to forgive others.

If we are having trouble with forgiving someone,
or dealing with anything
that the Holy Spirit is calling us to do,
we might use the following short prayer:
It’s a modified form of a Prayer of Fr. Mychal Judge:
The prayer is:
"Holy Spirit,
take me where you want me to go,
Let me meet who you want me to meet,
Tell me what you want me to say, and keep me out of your way."
* Parts of this homily based on the following:
** Lewis B. Smedes, "Forgiveness - The Power to Change the Past," Christianity Today, 7 January 1983 .