September 17 – Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

There is a story about when St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, who received visions of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, spoke to a priest about her visions. The priest did not want either one of them to be deceived, so he told her that if Jesus appeared to her again, to ask Him one question. He told her to ask Him what the last mortal sin he confessed was. When Jesus appeared to her again, Margaret Mary asked Him the question, Jesus looked at her and said, “I don’t remember.”

Even though God knows everything, after He has forgiven our sins, it is as if that sin never happened. It is truly forgiven. Yet in the First Reading, it says, “The vengeful will suffer the LORD’s vengeance, for he remembers their sins in detail.” In order for us to be forgiven, we first need to forgive. This is what we pray in the Our Father: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” If our hearts are not open to forgive others, how can they be open to receive forgiveness? 

But how do we forgive? We have to start with what forgiveness is not. It is not saying that what the other person did to us is okay. I think that because we think that this, we end up like the unforgiving servant trying to choke his fellow servant, saying, “Pay back what you owe.”

Instead, we need to acknowledge that what they did hurt us. Sr. Miriam James Heidland, SOLT, says that with Jesus, we even need to make an account of what that person did to hurt us. We do this, not to hold on to what they owe us, but instead to acknowledge the hurt we experienced. But as we do this, we also need to acknowledge that justice is most likely not possible on this earth. That other person might not even be aware that they hurt us or even be sorry.

Because justice is not possible on this earth, we know that God will bring about justice, if not in this life, in the next. Forgiveness is letting go of what they owe us, and instead giving that up to God, Who will bring about justice. Forgiveness is saying that I acknowledge that you hurt me, but I give that hurt, and you, to God.

If God forgives as if He forgets our sins, are we called to forget how that person has hurt us? The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession.” When we forgive, God can even transform those painful memories into sources of healing for us and the other person.

I also invite you to pray with this Forgiveness Meditation from Sister Miriam:

Father Frank