No Limit to Forgiveness
Tuesday, June 14, 2022 (11th Week of Ordinary Time, )
by Fr. David M. Knight
The Responsorial (Psalm 51) sets the tone for all Christian forgiveness: “Be merciful, Lord, for we have sinned.”
In 1Kings 21: 17-29 God has mercy on Ahab although his sin was abominable: “There never was anyone like Ahab for… doing what is displeasing to the Lord.” Nevertheless, God mitigated his punishment.
When we ask God to “have mercy,” we are asking him to “come to our aid out of a sense of relationship” (that is the meaning of “mercy”). We offer God — our Father — no reason for him to do this except our guilt and our need: “Be merciful, Lord, for we have sinned.” God forgives because this is what God chooses to do. This is what he is. There is no reason for it except our need and his love. That is why there is no limit to his forgiveness. How could there ever be insufficient motive for God to forgive when there was never any motive to begin with except God’s infinite love? Our prayer is just to declare our need: “Be merciful, Lord, for we have sinned.”
In Matthew 5:43-48 Jesus’ New Law is that we should love each other as “children of our Father in heaven.” We must set no more limits on our forgiveness of others than God sets on his forgiveness of us. Why? Because we are children of God. Therefore, Jesus teaches, “You must be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
This is more than human. We naturally “love our neighbors” — friends, relatives, fellow-citizens, those with whom we are bonded in some kind of relationship — and “hate [or ignore] our enemies.” But because we are children of the Father, we must accept as brothers and sisters all whom God calls to be his children. We must have “mercy” on all; love and forgive every person on earth unconditionally “out of a sense of relationship.” Why? Because God does, and we are God’s children. We receive from God, not just human life, but his own divine life. We are divine. “We must therefore be perfect, just as our heavenly Father is perfect.”
The teaching of the Church is unambiguous about this:
All the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of love…. Every Catholic must therefore aim at Christian perfection…. (Vatican II, Church 11, 40; Ecumenism 4).
This is impossible, of course, if we rely on our own human efforts. We can only love as Christ, the “only Son of the Father,” by being Christ, “sons and daughters in the Son,” filii in Filio. The mystery of Christian love is a mystery of sharing in the divine life and nature of God. This is also the mystery of Christian ministry. It is the foundation of our trust.
Initiative: Give God’s life: Be a “priest in the Priest.” Love as Christ in every dealing with every person.
Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry