March 23/Second Saturday of Lent
For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love towards those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us. ~ Ps 103:11-12
Forgiveness is out of fashion. It is seen in many quarters as a sign of weakness. Witness the lightning quick judgments of social media; read the savage recrimination heaped on a public figure who errs or strays; consider the mob justice that often springs from misapprehension. We are zealous, most of us, in requitting others according to their (perceived) offenses. Even in our relationships with family and friends, forgiveness can be hard to come by. Resentment over those annoying little habits of our spouse accretes in our hearts; bitterness at a long-ago slight from a friend or neighbor lingers in our minds. We hang on to our anger at and judgment of others while telling ourselves that we are merely “holding people accountable.” God shows us another way to deal with those who offend us: the way of forgiveness. This is not to be a grudging act, a muttered and inaudible “never mind.” No, we are to forgive extravagantly and exuberantly – much like the father of the prodigal son in today’s Gospel parable. The psalmist in our verses from Psalm 103 lays it out clearly using a rhetorical device known as “merism,” which uses diametrically opposite terms to convey the idea of totality – like “A to Z.” God’s loving forgiveness, we learn, extends as high as the highest height and spans as wide as the widest width. Striving to grasp the boundless dimensions of God’s forgiveness, filled with the fullness of that love, this is what we are called to emulate with those irksome spouses and thoughtless friends: an embracing mercy that extends – to use another “merism” – from sea to shining sea.
O God of steadfast mercy, give me the generosity of spirit to encircle those who have hurt or offended me in arms of forgiveness. Amen.