May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts!
This weekend’s readings draw us to reflect more deeply upon the way of forgiveness, which is different than reconciliation.
The sage in the book of Sirach begins by describing negative behavior based upon sin. He then directs the reader’s thoughts toward higher realms by posing a simple logical question: how can you expect forgiveness and peace for yourself, if you keep angry and hateful thoughts toward someone else? It doesn’t make sense! In the Gospel, Peter’s question seems logical because we all get exasperated at times when there are repeated behaviors that offend us and there is no sign of change (imagine what it must be like to struggle with an addiction!). According to Peter, there has to be some limit so that you can withdraw from being hurt. I can understand Peter’s point. I am sure that many of you do too. Jesus, the Fount of All Wisdom, guides us to the kingdom of heaven through Peter’s question. Forgiveness must be given by us, so that we also may be forgiven: there is no choice. Forgiveness means laying down the right to just retribution or recompense for an offense against you. It is given over to God. It can only be given by the one offended. It cannot be bought, sold, or merited by an offender. This is forgiveness.
Reconciliation is another matter. To be reconciled is to have a relationship repaired and trust re-established. The offender must make a sincere apology, then demonstrate a change in behavior to manifest the change of heart & mind. The decision to allow the person back into a relationship of mutual trust rests with the one who was offended. Depending upon the magnitude and frequency of the offense, reconciliation may or may not be possible. When reconciliation is not possible, it is still possible to forgive by giving the pain and offender over to God. In the sacrament of Penance, God reconciles us to himself. Even though we will sin again, God will always embrace us because his love is so great!
Understanding the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation is important because not everyone who offends is going to apologize, nor are they necessarily able to change. In such cases, we have to forgive so that we do not carry the wound in our hearts. We can be free and well by trusting them to God who knows what is best for them and us! Thank you Jesus for this freedom!
God bless you all! +++ Fr. Peter