Forgive a “Whole Bunch”

Reflection for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board Members Alisa and Doug O’Brien

This reflection was originally posted in our September 11 newsletter


Hug.ForgiveThe readings this week are pretty straight forward: To be forgiven for our sins, one must forgive others. The first reading asks “Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord?” Then in the Gospel when Peter asks Jesus how much one must forgive, Jesus uses words that our three young kids can understand: “not seven times, but 77 times,” in other words, a whole bunch.

Whether in our families, our parish, or in debates on national issues such as immigration, climate change, or race relations, seeking and granting forgiveness can be deeply challenging. Like other lessons, when trying to teach forgiveness to our kids, we struggle with how to make the lesson “stick” – when to teach with words or actions, when to let them learn a lesson on their own, or when to use carrots and sticks to help them learn to forgive. Sometimes our choices lead to parental lectures, furrowed brows, or even denial of privileges. While words and actions can be effective, we know the very best way to teach is by example. While Jesus shared parables and performed miracles, the ultimate lesson is his example on the cross.

The only way that we can expect our kids to forgive is to forgive them. The only way we can expect them to be merciful is for them to see us showing mercy to others. As a married couple, we need to forgive each other; even if the kids do not see us doing so, they will know if we don’t. God forgives us every day by continuing to love us despite our sins; on Good Friday, this was Jesus’ request when he asked, “Father, forgive them, they know now what they do.” (Lk 23:34)

What do Jesus’ lessons about forgiveness mean for us today? We have a responsibility to speak out for the poor, the prisoner, the immigrant, and for God’s creation. The most effective teachers – from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Ghandi to Jesus himself – show us that to make the greatest impact toward a more just and peaceful world, we need to practice mercy, forgiveness and non-violence. As Pope Francis reminded us in his 2017 World Day of Peace message: “Jesus himself lived in violent times…But Christ’s message in this regard offers a radically positive approach. He unfailingly preached God’s unconditional love, which welcomes and forgives.”

Yet to forgive is not to condone. We cannot stand by idly as God’s people and creation suffer injustice and injury. But to refuse to forgive simply continues the vicious cycle of anger. This is true in the national and international stage, just as it is in our own family.

Alisa and Doug O’Brien
FAN Board Members
(Alisa and Doug have three children, aged 3, 5, and 8 years old.)

Advertisements
Published in: on September 12, 2017 at 9:02 am  Comments (1)  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://franciscanaction.wordpress.com/2017/09/12/forgive-a-whole-bunch/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Thank you Alisa and Doug for the reminder and inspiration to plant peace first in our hearts and homes, and how and why to bring it out into the world. Woody Creek, CO


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: