The Outer Limits of Forgiveness

Thursday of Week 19 in Ordinary Time


If reconciliation is the goal, we cannot be too quick to dismiss any hint or sign that damage to a relationship or a break in communion can be healed. In yesterday’s gospel, Jesus instructs his disciples to find a way because preserving communion is a high priority. But what about recidivists? Peter asked the question we ourselves ask. What’s the limit to forgiveness? When can I give up?

Jesus reminds us that God will always be willing to forgive us. So we should always be willing to forgive those who offend us. We know that God will never allow anyone to take advantage of him because he can read our hearts and know whether or not we sincerely seek reconciliation. But we don’t have that power. We can’t tell whether or not our offending neighbor is sincerely seeking reconciliation. Here’s a thought. We still have power to determine how much damage they can inflict on us.

We know it stings more intensely when someone we love offends us. But when someone with whom we have no relationship or friendship offends us, not so much. Our relationship or friendship makes us vulnerable to betrayal and hurt. Yes, we should forgive. But we will learn from the experience. And we will need to know when to deny or restrict access to our vulnerabilities. If we don’t learn from our mistakes, we open ourselves up to repeating them.

And if that doesn’t work, we still have the power to let go of resentment and seething rage. It is an act of the will that might not come naturally. When we are hurt, our natural response is to lash back in anger. But when the offender is a child or a person with diminished mental capacity, when we know the offender does not understand the gravity of what they have done, it is up to us to let go of our resentment. And when we do, healing can begin.

Seventy times? Seventy-seven times? Seventy times seven times? No limits. Or we hand over the power to hurt us to someone we do not love and who does not love us. Reconciliation. Forgiveness. But not resentment.

This mass was offered for the repose of +Margaret Clemens.

Rolo B Castillo © 2020