Quite a few parts of the Bible don’t talk about forgiveness. But quite a few do, and they’re not just in the New Testament.
This morning’s second reading doesn’t mention forgiveness directly, but the verse right after it does.
They all say why forgiving is a good idea.
It’s enlightened self-interest, in the long run:
“Wrath and anger, these also are abominations,
yet a sinner holds on to them.
“The vengeful will face the Lord’s vengeance;
indeed he remembers their sins in detail.
“Forgive your neighbor the wrong done to you;
then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.
“Does anyone nourish anger against another
and expect healing from the LORD?”
“Why then do you judge your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God;”
“Then Peter approaching asked him, ‘Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?'”
The parable of the unforgiving servant starts after Matthew 18:22.1
Our Lord seems to like parables.2
Two millennia after Jesus was here, some details take a little explaining. Folks in 21st century Minnesota don’t live and work quite like the Apostles did. That’s one reason I appreciate footnotes.
Forgiving “seventy seven times” is probably a reference to Genesis 4:24, where Lamach talks about vengeance.
It doesn’t mean if I forgive 77 times I can stay angry the 78th time. A footnote to Matthew 18:22 says it means I should forgive an unlimited number of times.
I think that makes sense. But it’s not easy. Not for me.
Doing What I Can
It’s easier now than it was. That’s partly, I think, because I’m older and may have learned a bit along the way.
Getting neural glitches treated helps, too. A lot. (July 7, 2017; July 2, 2017)
That’s made managing my emotions easier. Possible, sometimes.
I’m a very emotional man.
That hasn’t changed, although it seems like they’re less extreme these days. Maybe because thinking is easier now. Faster, too. That helps me head off runaway feelings.
There’s nothing wrong with emotions. They’re a normal part of being human. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1762–1770)
Feelings aren’t good or bad by themselves. Love, joy, fear, anger: they’re all useful. (Catechism, 1765)
What matters is how I use them. Ideally, I’d always love what’s good, fear what’s bad, and think before acting. (Catechism, 1765–1770)
I don’t live in an ideal world, and I’m not perfect. Nothing unusual there. I don’t always do what’s right. But I can try. (April 23, 2017; October 5, 2016)
That includes forgiving others. And myself, and that’s another topic.
There’s a little truth to the “forgive and forget” motto. But it falls well short of telling the whole story.
I can’t perfectly forget when something bad has been done to me. Not if I knew about it, and the harm was serious enough.
That doesn’t bother me.
Even if I could, I think “forgetting” would be a bad idea. The same situation might happen again.
We’re called to holiness, not gullibility.
Truth matters. So does justice. (Catechism, 1807, 2468)
I’m quite sure that ignoring either would not be prudent.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean pretending that something harmful is okay. Like I said, truth and justice matter.
So does love.
I should love God. I should also love others: all others, no exceptions. (Matthew 5:43–44, 22:36–40; Mark 12:28–31; Luke 6:31 10:25–27, 29–37; Catechism, 1789)
“Love” isn’t “approval.” I should be able to love someone and see something they do as a bad idea. (November 21, 2016; October 28, 2016; September 11, 2016)
Seeing some of what I do as a bad idea matters, too. I’m still working on that.
Outrage and Politics
I don’t know why folks get so upset over politics. Maybe it’s at least partly an outraged sense of justice.
That isn’t an entirely bad thing. Like I said, justice is important.
However, what I see in some online communities is not good.
For starters, I’m quite sure that no American president has been the antichrist. (November 29, 2016)
Maybe some really believed it. That doesn’t make them right.
Other folks, with different views, hurl other insults. That’s nothing new.
Details change. Attitudes? Not so much.
“Nazi” and “fascist” may be on their way out. “White supremacist” seems to be a popular label this year.
There really are fascists and white supremacists.
But not agreeing with me doesn’t make someone the antichrist or a fascist. Again, ‘really believing’ doesn’t make something true.
Nazism isn’t entirely gone. But the movement is pretty much history. The attitude that race, sex, or belief make one bunch better than anyone else? That’s still around, sadly.
Using “fascist” or “white supremacist” to express anger doesn’t make sense. Not to me. Particularly when the labels aren’t accurate.
I’d better explain that.
I care about justice.
Caring about justice won’t let me ignore politics.
But I don’t see a point in hurling insults at folks who aren’t just like me.
That probably wouldn’t make me seem reasonable. Yet more topics.
Politics and Perspective
Part of my job is knowing and loving God, and encouraging others to do the same. (Matthew 28:19–20; Catechism, 1–3)
Learning about this wonder-filled universe and appreciating God’s work seems reasonable. (Sirach 17:1–14; Catechism, 283, 341)
I think putting current events in perspective makes sense too.
“Many a hearth upon our dark globe sighs after many a vanish’d face,
“Many a planet by many a sun may roll with a dust of a vanish’d race.
“Raving politics, never at rest—as this poor earth’s pale history runs,—
“What is it all but a trouble of ants in the gleam of a million million of suns?…”
(“Vastness,” Tennyson, via Bartleby.com)
What I say and how I act matter.
So does taking the long view:
- “Sane Environmentalism”
(August 11, 2017)
- “‘Renewed and Expansive Hope’”
(June 18, 2017)
- “‘The Federation of the World’”
(May 28, 2017)
- “Conservative? Liberal? No: Catholic”
(January 22, 2017)
- “Amos and Social Justice”
(September 25, 2016)
1 September 17, 2017, readings:
2 Telling stories to make a point:
- “Jesus, the Parable Teller” (July 23, 2017)
- “Who is My Neighbor?” (February 1, 2017)
- “Love, Mercy, and 9/11” (September 11, 2016)
I recommend reading Fr. Robert Carr’s thoughts on forgiveness: “The Sin Qua Non.” (Sept. 17, 2017) ( https://www.carrbooks.com/single-post/2017/09/17/The-Sine-Qua-Non )
I also recommend Peggy Haslar’s “Neither Share a Reckless Rant nor Post a Mocking Meme: Give Me a Clean Heart” ( https://peggyhaslar.com/2017/10/13/neither-share-a-reckless-rant-nor-post-a-mocking-meme-give-me-a-clean-heart/ )
Look for her update of verses from 1 Corinthians 13: “”If I tweet in the tone of comics and hipsters, but have not love….” I liked it.