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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Fr. Bob Warren's Week Reflection: Our Father & Forgiveness

Franciscan Friars
Franciscan Friars
Our Father & Forgiveness
(Luke 11:1-13)
Many years ago, a remarkable psychiatrist, Karl Menninger wrote a book "Whatever Became of Sin?" In fact, he did not hesitate to quote the first letter of John, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." All of us here admit we have sinned every time we say the prayer from our Gospel today—the Lord's Prayer—forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us.
In Scripture, to sin is to rebel against God. It meant deliberately, consciously, knowingly, to resist the will of God. To sin is to break a bond, to destroy a relationship, to withdraw myself from God, and God’s love. Few sins, however, are aimed directly at God. Rarely do we set up what we know are false gods. Rarely, if ever, do we curse God in cold blood. More often, we offend God by offending against the images of God, against the men and women shaped by God to His likeness.
Most sins reflect the sin of Cain, who turned on his brother and slew him. Most sins exemplify our inhumanity to each other, those closest to us. Then we have those sins that keep cropping up. I lied. I gossiped. I cursed. I got angry. These sins crop up at every confession. I begin to question my own sincerity.
Then there are the sins impossible to catalog, sins of omission, impossible to catalog because in each instance, I did nothing. Someone needs me, but I closed my eyes. I said not a word, slum landlord gouged the helpless, and all I said was, "too bad." Or I let someone else take the blame for something that I did.
Public officials betrayed their sacred trust, and I thought, "Everybody's doing it; it’s ok." A stranger asked for a smile, and I never gave it. Some had AIDS, and I thought it served them right.
If we say we have no sin, the truth is not in us. Let us look at another line from our gospel. "Forgive us." Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. And all the while, we find it so hard to forgive others, to forgive ourselves, to accept forgiveness.
It is not easy to forgive others. I can forgive the government when they mess up. I can forgive Pontius Pilate for washing his hands of Jesus. Those sins do not cut me personally. But what of the family member who is jealous of me, is cool to me at family get-togethers? What about the neighbor who is so difficult to live with? I hurt quickly and forgive slowly. Even when I do forgive, I can make the sinner feel awfully uncomfortable. Let them twist in the wind for a while, for their own good, of course. Like the elder brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son, we do not approve of parties for other repentant sinners, not if we have been fairly faithful recently.
It is not always easy to forgive ourselves. The imperfection I see in others, I will not tolerate in myself. The sinfulness we find so human in those around us, we often reproach as inhuman and unacceptable in ourselves. Guilt can hound us. For all too many, the ego is a harsh taskmaster. We should ask ourselves sometimes, why I am I so hard on myself.
It is not easy to accept forgiveness, whether it is a priest who murmurs, "I absolve you" or a friend who waves away our apologies, "Oh, forget it." So often we won't let go. We keep clutching what has been forgiven. We hark back to what has been forgotten.
God is bigger than us. If God forgives, we have to forgive ourselves. And yet, through scripture, we see that our God is not a god of vengeance. He is a God who forgives. Not from heaven. He became human. He tasted hunger and thirst, knew pain, loneliness, He lived our life and died for you and me. He told us that there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine who just have no need of repentance.
God has forgiven us so much. Is it totally out of the question that we could do likewise? Not so much to do the impossible—to forgive the unforgiveable. For most of us, it means simply swallowing our pride, showing ourselves a little more loving than the other, making some gesture that God can use to change a human heart. The same God who as Jesus reminded us makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
While preparing this homily, I could not help but think of the injunction of Jesus. If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go first to be reconciled with your brother or sister. And then, come and offer your gift.
Have you ever done that? Do you need to?
Fr. Robert Warren
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Robert Warren Signature
Fr. Robert Warren, S.A.
Spiritual Director
Franciscan Friars
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