“To be a Christian is to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven it in us…”

From two years ago: 

It is difficult to capture what this anniversary means to us as Americans, as New Yorkers, as Catholic Christians.  The things we feel are almost beyond words.  We are still, in many ways, groping in the dark, struggling to find a way to deal with what happened, and how much our lives and our world have changed.  Yet, this day, as we come before the altar of God with our prayers and petitions, our grief and our anger, we hear these words from the ancient prophet:

“Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven. Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor; remember the Most High’s covenant, and overlook faults.”

In the gospel, Jesus says it again:  “Forgive your brother,” he says, “from your heart.”

But how?  I wish I knew.  I wish there were a mystical way to click on a forgiveness switch in the human heart.  I wish I knew how to love all my enemies and pray for all my persecutors and “forgive my neighbor’s injustice” – even this most heinous injustice of all.

I think perhaps that forgiveness – like conversion – is a journey.  The human heart isn’t necessarily converted over night.  We don’t all have that electrifying moment on the road to Damascus.  For many of us, it grows out of what Flannery O’Connor called “a habit of being.”  It happens over a lifetime.

Conversion is a daily choice.  So, is love.

And so, I believe, is forgiveness.

Like all of the challenges of our faith, it is something we need to pray for – to pray to able to do what we are called to do.

To love our neighbor.

To love our enemies.

To forgive our neighbor’s injustice.

C.S. Lewis put it beautifully.  “To be a Christian,” he wrote, “is to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven it in us.”

A couple weeks ago, we heard Christ tells his disciples: “Take up your cross and follow me.”

Well, one of the heaviest crosses is the call to forgive.   Even when something seems unforgivable. Especially then.  But by God’s grace – and by Christ’s example – somehow, we pick up that cross.  We bear it on our backs.  And we begin the long walk.

We may carry it on our backs, but what is more important is what we hold in our hearts, and it is this: that love is greater than hate; that hope is stronger than despair; that vengeance is no match for forgiveness.

This Sunday, we pray to remember that.  And we pray, very simply, in remembrance.

—Homily for September 11, 2011.

Read it all. 


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