What are the three most beautiful words in the English language? “I love you.” What are the next three most beautiful words? “I forgive you.” These sentences go together.
Forgiveness is an intrinsic part of love. This is expressed well by Ruth Bell Graham who said, “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” The core of marriage is love, and that necessarily includes forgiveness. You can’t have one without the other.
In today’s gospel we hear those familiar words, “God so loved the world that he sent his only Son…that the world might be saved through him.” Jesus was sent to forgive. Before Jesus was born Joseph was told in a dream to name the child ‘Jesus,’ “for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
On Calvary the apostles let Jesus down. All but John abandoned him. When Jesus appeared to the apostles after the resurrection, he could have said, “What a disappointment you guys are. Where were you in my hour of need? I’m going back to Galilee to round up some new followers and try again.”
But Jesus didn’t say that. Instead he said, “Peace be with you.”(John 20:19) Wow, they were forgiven. They were given a second chance. The apostles rejoiced not only because Jesus was alive, but because he was alive and forgave them. Now they in turn could proclaim reconciliation and lavish God’s forgiveness because they experienced it first hand.
God so loved the world that he sent his loving forgiveness. Come, let us rejoice!
Fr. Alan Phillip, C.P. is a member of the Passionist Community at Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California. http://www.alanphillipcp.com/