“I’ll forgive, but I’ll never forget.” How many times do we hear this from people who are hurt, insulted, traumatized, victimized, or violently injured by another?
In today’s Gospel, something happened that had never occurred before: a man forgave all the wrong doings of a paralytic. The righteous scribes immediately gasped at the overstep by Jesus. “Who do you think you are, acting like God,” we might hear them shout in protest.
This story’s lesson is not so much that Jesus, the man-God, can forgive sins. The most important lesson is the last line: “When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to human beings.” The last word is plural, not singular. This presupposes the faith community, for whom the gospel of Matthew was written, forgave the sins of one another.
I find it so easy, especially at Mass, to gloss over the concept of sin. The word sin is woven throughout our liturgy, from the opening penitential rite to the Lamb of God plea, repeated three times prior to receiving Communion.
I have to shake my mind a bit to realize what we mean, for instance, by the Lamb of God taking away the “sins of the world.” That’s a powerful statement about an all-powerful God because the sins of our world are immense.
Violence rages in Ukraine, Syria, Sudan, and the streets, homes, schools, and stores in America where human beings, made in the image of God, are being slaughtered by other human beings.
The threat of total destruction of humanity by nuclear weapons is a daily reality, a reality we reflexively dismiss due to it being unthinkable.
Corruption, greed, and apathy have created a canyon between the few rich and masses of poor. Recently we spent millions to try to rescue five billionaire deep-sea tourists while over 500 impoverished refugees drowned off the coast of Greece from indifference.
A live-for-the-moment mentality reigns as we all ceaselessly spew greenhouse gases into our fragile atmosphere causing sea levels to rise, animal and plant species to become extinct, rivers to flood or dry up, hurricanes and tornadoes to kill and destroy whole communities. Our self-destroying way of living is scorching the planet, our common home.
And in every corner of this home people lack housing, healthcare, friendships, and love.
These are the sins of our time.
Can our God, the Lamb of God, really take away these sins?
Yes. Our God, not the gods mentioned in today’s psalm, forgives and wipes out sin in and through the faith community. When we forgive one another, we commit the greatest act of love possible, laying the foundation for unity and tenderness among us.
In your quiet moment of prayer today, when you shut out the noise of this sinful world and are alone and stilled in God, you might ask who you need to forgive.
It might be God.
It might be someone who still sticks in your craw.
It might be you need to forgive yourself.
Jim Wayne is a board member of the Passionist Solidarity Network (PSN), and author of The Unfinished Man. He lives in Louisville, Kentucky.