Forgiveness ~ Jump into the Great Love

Scripture     Matthew 5: 38-48


Jesus said to his disciples:

“You have heard it said, ‘you shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’

 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

 So that you may be children of your Father in heaven;

 For he makes the sum rise on the evil and on the good,

 and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous.”


The crowning of a person’s goodness is always their capacity to forgive. Forgiveness is that quality of love which cuts through all human weakness and heals and restores life by giving it a greater love.  Where there is hatred, one chooses to love.  Where there is injury, one chooses to pardon. Occasionally we hear stories on TV where extra-ordinary men and women have publicly forgiven their child’s murderer; or the father who after losing his daughter, forgave the troubled youth who did the mass shooting at the Columbine school. Today’s Gospel invites us to ask once again, from where comes this extraordinary grace to forgive one’s enemies?


We have all faced situations in our life circumstances were we have felt like we were the ‘wronged’ one. It may have felt like the ‘enemy’ was ever present encircling us, engaging us, lurking around and trying consciously or unconsciously to destroy us, diminish us, harm us in some way – be it emotionally or psychologically or physically. Sometimes it may be because we are perceived as a threat to the other’s security, prestige, self-esteem, or superiority. The ‘enemy’ only wants to be rid of their prey and the means they intention in their hearts is to kill, destroy, slander, demean, possibly even, in the extreme, to murder – figuratively or literally. Can one imagine for a moment the agony in the soul of such an ‘enemy’? John of the Cross once said, ‘where there is no love, put love and you will draw out love.”


Violence is unworthy of us human beings, it goes contrary to the truth of our humanity. But when violence is transformed into compassion, we witness an extraordinary moment of grace. The Hebrew Scriptures recount that wonderful story of David encountering Saul, his would-be murderer, all unawares in the cave. Although he must have been frightened and gravely concerned for his own life, he felt no revenge, no ill will or intent toward him, but let Saul go, let him escape unharmed. “You can see that there was no malice or treason in my heart,” he says. Here was his so-called ‘enemy’ delivered into his power and he does nothing to molest or harm him. David’s forgiveness and tolerance contradict the logic of revenge. He demonstrates how a person can respond to these acts of inhumanity by being sane, civilized, and forbearing.


The act of forgiveness and reconciliation between these two men was in itself a profoundly moving experience.  Scripture says that “Saul wept aloud.” The deed itself spoke even more than the words, and the experience of being pardoned, changed his heart, and softened his murderous intentions. He saw the greatness of David’s character contrasted to his own unworthiness. He acclaims David: “Now I know that you will reign indeed and that your sovereignty will be secure.”


Forgiveness makes change possible, not just spiritual change, but also social change. That day the two men and their whole armies returned home disbanded their campaign, abandoning their pursuit, the chase and the flight. The forgiveness between the two leaders occasioned the change in their followers. In the Old Testament, the Jewish people already perceived the inner dynamic that was the essence of forgiveness and all that makes change possible. The Hebrew word to forgive, salach, has the meaning of to send away, to let go. In forgiveness, there is a sending away, a letting go, a losing away of what was held bound.  They could understand that one had the power within them to turn away from evil to good – to change – and the very act of changing, the act of conversion – brought God’s forgiveness.


And so, in a very real sense, forgiveness makes one capable of changing the circumstances of one’s life.  There is a tremendous healing power in forgiveness.  Not to forgive is to remain imprisoned in the past by old grievances and resentments and hurts that do not permit life to proceed with newness.  It is not just to let these be forgotten with time fading away into our memory. To forget is not yet to forgive.  And it is only in forgiveness that one is changed, is set free. There is today within the inner life of the Church a very beautiful ministry – the healing of memories -  wherein, with the support of a healing minister, one allows these painful memories to surface into consciousness again, to bring them into the divine power of God’s forgiveness. There, where we jump into the Greater Love, comes the healing light and releasing - yes, of enemies! 


Forgiveness always frees the forgiver.  It lifts the forgiver out of someone else’s evil nightmare.  It is a letting go, a losing away from bondage.  Forgiveness shatters the chain reaction.  Forgiveness releases then a new power, a spiritual power into the world.  Each and every time that someone moves a little closer to inner and outward forgiveness of another, the world moves a little closer to Christ-consciousness and moves toward a truer humanity.  Surely what the world needs now is more forgiveness – forgiveness that shatters the chain reaction that just seems to keep escalating with more threats and more retaliations.  Forgiveness will always contradict the logic of revenge!


Truly the most sublime model of forgiveness is climaxed in the person of Jesus Christ.  He not only preached forgiveness and loving one’s enemies, He died proclaiming it.  From the cross came this supreme testimony of love: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  The King of Kings from His throne, in His final act of life – forgave.  His forgiveness is His love’s crowning glory.  And the redemptive power of that forgiveness is still reaching out to embrace the whole world.  To this great encounter each one of us must come, remain, receive … and weep. Then, get up … go and do likewise


Can we bring before our minds in prayer this week, any person or situation that may have caused us deep suffering? May we be given the extraordinary grace to extend forgiveness to our enemy? Can we imagine ourselves going ‘into a cave’ with the Great Lover God to meet there ‘our enemy’ and risk experiencing - only LOVE.  


Carrying Grace      A letting go mantra:

                                  I release you. I release me.

                                  I set you free. I set me free.

                                  I love you. I love me.



#1 arletteh 2011-02-20 13:29
"Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful woman." What a soul-wrenching, challenging,hop eful,beautiful, soul-searching, comforting,peac e-giving meditation, all wrapped in one!Tremendous! The love of God has been poured into our hearts and is running over!

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