Giving Up the Hope of a Better Past 


24th Sunday In Ordinary Time

Fr. Mark Gatto

Preached: Sept. 13, 2020

Is forgiveness really a good thing?  How would you define forgiveness?  One of the best definitions of forgiveness that I have heard is the following.  “Forgiveness is giving up the hope of a better past.”  We cannot change the past, but we can change the future.  And forgiveness is a necessary step for any new future.

It is for this reason that forgiveness is at the heart of the Gospel.  Forgiveness is central to the mystery of God revealed in Jesus.  As we look to Jesus in the Gospels, we see in his words and actions the importance of forgiveness.  In this Gospel passage that we just heard Jesus makes it clear that there can be no limit to our forgiveness.  Not seven times, but seventy-seven times.  In other words, no limits.  That is hard, as we see with Peter who wanted to put some limit on forgiveness.

Why is Forgiveness so important?

  • It is the only way to a new future.
  • It is the only way to new life.
  • It is the only way to find a new path.
  • It is the only way to true peace.

In fact, there is no human community that can survive without forgiveness.  No family, no community, no group, no parish can survive without forgiveness.

Our First Reading today is from the Book of Sirach, one of what we call the Wisdom books of the Old Testament.  It contains wise sayings.  This reading offers very strong words against holding on to anger, refusing to forgive.  “Anger and wrath, these are abominations, yet a sinner holds on to them. …  Does anyone harbour anger against another, and expect healing from the Lord?”  It goes on to say, “Remember the end of your life, and set enmity aside; … overlook faults.”

How can we expect God to forgive us if we do not forgive others.  How can we expect God to let go of justified anger at us if we hold on to anger toward others.

If God will treat us according to how we treat others, how would that change how we treat others?  If God will forgive us to the extent that we forgive others, how would that change our heart of forgiveness?  Most of us pray that each day when we pray the Lord’s Prayer.  “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Forgiveness is in the heart of the mystery of God.  Forgiveness is central to the message of Jesus. Forgiveness is the only way forward for us human beings.  It is a key to a peaceful future. So we need to struggle to embrace forgiveness no matter how difficult it is.

“Forgiveness is giving up the hope of a better past.”  It is not to forget the past, not to think nothing needs changing, not to ignore the injustice that needs reform.  Forgiveness sets us free from being closed in some negative past.  Forgiveness opens up a door that allows us to work for justice and peace in a new and better future.

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