Forgiveness at Mass

If someone tells me about something they’ve suffered and says, “It’s alright Father, I’ve forgiven them and forgotten all about it.” I feel like saying, “Then why are you telling me about it?”

Thing is, if we’ve been hurt really badly–or even worse–our loved one has been hurt badly, and if that injury is unjustified, and if we are really a victim, then I don’t think we can actually forgive. In our own power, that is, I don’t think we can forgive. The Pharisees were right when they said, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

You try forgiving a wrong and you just can’t get rid of it can you? No. But Christ forgives, and the only way we can forgive is by tapping into his forgiveness. We have to plug into the power source for forgiveness which is the cross of Christ. See, there the forgiveness of the world was won. It is only as we plug into that power source of forgiveness that we can hope to have that forgiveness channel through us to others.

This is one of the reasons why I become irritated with the concept of Mass as fellowship meal being made the main image of understanding the Mass. It’s not. It’s a secondary image. The primary understanding of the Mass is now, and always has been, a re-presentation of the cross of Christ. The once for all sacrifice of Calvary is brought into the present moment through the action of the Mass and applied to our needs here and now.

This means that the forgiveness that Christ has won is present here. Present now when we go to Mass, and that’s why it is so important to attend Mass every week, because we need that forgiveness infusion every week. We need to connect with the one, full, final sacrifice. There we are forgiven and find the strength to forgive. There the forgiveness of Christ covers us and flows from us to those who we need to forgive.

This really, actually works, and I wouldn’t be a priest unless I believed it. When we come to Mass and understand the whole action of the Mass as an offering for sin and an offering up of our sin and a transaction of forgiveness, then suddenly the Mass takes on its full and mystical meaning. It is not just a fellowship meal and a time for us to gather and be inspired about how we are going to go out and change the world and be nicer more middle class people.

Instead something visceral and primitive is here. Here we offer sacrifice and we connect with a primal level of humanity that still throbs within our seemingly sophisticated selves. Here we lift up the chalice of salvation. Here the bread becomes the flesh of God. Here we dine on the death that wins our forgiveness. Here we connect with the dark threads woven through humanity’s terrible and wonderful story. Here Christ hangs suspended in the cosmos as the arch linking heaven and earth; linking my mortality with immortality.

Here we touch the dark.

But here also we glimpse the light.

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