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