24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (September 17, 2017)

Today’s readings challenge us to forgive each other. Gathered here are some thoughts on forgiveness that reflect the teachings of St. Francis de Sales:

Forgiveness is hard to do. While we desire to forgive, we still let our feelings of anger sway us. Yet, if we let anger reign in our heart it grows from a twig to a large branch. The greatest motive for not harboring anger in our heart is that it does not allow us to flourish as a healthy, lively human being. Forgiveness, on the other hand, leads to our wholeness in Christ, whose Spirit floods our hearts with eternal love.

Yet, deep hurts that return again and again remind us that they can never be fully eliminated. Just when we think we’ve been victorious in forgiving, we find our anger stirred up again in our hearts. We’ve thrown it out the front door, but like a strong wind, anger comes again through a back window in need of repair.

Nonetheless, we do not have to let our weaknesses control our lives. God does not order us to keep anger from coming into our heart, only that anger ought not to reign in our heart. Little by little we become forgiving as we very gently put our heart back into God’s hands and ask God to heal it. Tell God how you desire to forgive as Jesus forgives. For it is in Jesus that we must place all our affections.

By nurturing sacred love in our heart through prayer and the sacraments, we become open to the power of forgiveness. Forgiveness comes more fully when we allow our Savior to enter our hearts and explore the rooms that require repairing. We must not be disturbed but rather glory in our infirmities so that God’s power may shine through us. Our deepest hurts remind us of our own weaknesses, and of our need to be more compassionate with others’ weaknesses. In that lies the power of forgiveness.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)