Is forgiveness out of fashion?

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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.

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Tim Donovan
1 year 10 months ago

As a Catholic who's gay, growing up as a youngster in the early 1970's was difficult. I lived in a middle-class Catholic family and a middle class neighborhood with people who either also were Catholic or Protestants of different denominations. I was frequently taunted as being a sissy, and once was spat on during our school bus ride home when I was in 7th grade by a 6th grader. In fairness, he did apologize to me. Although I have many good memories, I was often teased because of my effeminate behavior. As painful as this could be, I did have the love of my family which made up for the taunts. It took me some time to forgive the boy who spat on me. (Being an introvert, I never actually went up to him and said "I forgive you," although I did quietly accept his apology). However, I long ago forgave him in my heart (I'm now 57). I take the view that the cause of much cruel "acting out" against others is low self-esteem. When a teacher of the Law asked Jesus, "Teacher, what must I do to receive eternal live?" Jesus asked him what the Scriptures said and how he interpreted them. The man replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind." "You are right, " Jesus replied, "Do this and you will live." ( Luke 10: 25-28). St. Pope John Paul said, "The Eucharist is the source and summit of our life." Howev er, St. Paul emphasized, "So anyone who eats this bread and drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. " (1 Corinthians: 11:27). In past years, I had sex with men due to loneliness. However, I regretted my acts, found renewed meaning in life through my family, friends, and caring for my nieces, nephew, and students. (I'm a retired Special Education teacher who instructed children with brain damage). For quite some time, I avoided confessing my sins, as I was very much ashamed of having had sex with men. However, I decided that it was false pride that kept me from admitting my moral failings. So, I decided that I would love both God and neighbor rather than give into lustful feelings, and received forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To me, as an imperfect Catholic, asking for forgiveness from God is no longer "out of fashion," as I receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation from a compassionate priest from my parish each month.

Michael Bindner
1 year 10 months ago

Forgiveness us about self-acceptance. I hope both you and the Church find that truth.

Judith Jordan
1 year 10 months ago

Tim Donavan
Your postings always read like you are a good, kind soul. Your path to Heaven reflects your walk on earth.

Do not beat yourself up about being gay. God created you in His image and gay. The Church is so fanatically focused on the “pelvic issues” that it overlooks more serious flaws such as a failure to live by the Sermon on the Mount. It sounds to me that you are a faithful follower of Christ's sermon.

The bullies who tormented you are the antithesis of what Jesus taught us.

Michael Bindner
1 year 10 months ago

If it is then not even God can help us. To be forgiven, we must forgive. To feel peace, we must let go.

Michael Bindner
1 year 10 months ago

It is an essential element. Salvation in the cross is essential too, not to rescue us from eternal Hell, but Hell in our lives today in the vision quest of Jesus. When he invoked Psalm 22 it was personal and totally authentic. Most important is seeing him in others, especially the poor, which brings us back to forgiveness and out of the ideal of self-sufficiency as we demand it of the poor. Public policy included

[Editors’ note: This is part of a daily Lenten reflection series. Sign up for our America Today newsletter to receive each reflection every day in your inbox.]

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