Thursday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time
August 17, 2017
Beloved Father: Give me the grace of desiring to forgive others despite my feelings. Help me, Lord, to remember always that You have been merciful to me before. Amen.
If people weren't so frustrating, Peter wouldn't have asked the question that he raised in today's Gospel, and we would have no need to forgive others over and over and over again. Once should be enough, don't you think? After being hurt and then generously choosing to forgive anyway, we should be rewarded with the pleasure of seeing our enemy become nice to us, right?
The problem is that people don't change as quickly as we want them to, and some people don't change at all, at least not that we can see. For us to be like Jesus and forgive them seventy times seven times, we have to make the conscious decision to respect and love people the way they are right now, even while disapproving of and disliking what they do. If they never improve, can we love them anyway? What if their lack of improvement causes us more problems?
Forgiveness is not based on what others do, but on what we need. Forgiveness releases us from the hold that their sins have on us. It's a decision to protect our joy and not allow others to control our feelings. And for this to happen, our forgiveness must be sincere. We can say with our lips that we've forgiven others, but if our happiness depends on others changing, we remain frustrated and angry. On-going anger is a sign that our forgiveness is only lip-deep.
Joy through forgiveness is dependent upon God, not on what others do or don't do. We choose to forgive based on the love that God has for sinners, not on whether they deserve it. And then because we've given them mercy, we receive God's mercy and we're released from the emotional chains that have bound us to the damaging effects of their sins.
If we don't forgive, we're like the wicked servant in Jesus' parable. He begged for and received forgiveness, but then he treated others the way he himself did not want to be treated. If we have on-going feelings of frustration, this is evidence that our love for others -- our kindness, our patience, our mercy -- is conditional, based upon how nicely they treat us. God's not there.
To protect ourselves from the return of frustration, we have to examine why we feel hurt: Our needs are not being met. As long as we keep wanting others to meet those needs, we feel hurt over and over again. However, nobody except God can meet all of our needs. Unless we look to God for our joy, our frustrations are in danger of controlling us until the day we die!
Keep your eyes on Jesus. Others cannot or will not give you everything you need. Jesus is the only one who can love you completely. Although it takes a lifetime to open ourselves fully to his love, whenever someone lets us down, we should see it as a gift, a new opportunity to let Jesus hold us and take care of us. When we let Jesus meet our needs, it's much, much easier to forgive others -- again.
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