The Path of Forgiveness
When the lectionary does not have the continuous readings of Ordinary Time we lose a certain context that can help us in approaching the daily readings. But in the time when specially chosen readings make up the lectionary, as in Lent and Easter, we have the help of the particular season to guide us. We draw from our experiences, from the richness of prayer, art, tradition and heritage, and our mind and heart arrange such diversity into grace filled patterns. Is this the way grace is at work as we approach Lent through our daily Scripture readings?
I have found some Lents that each week advanced me along the Lenten journey as if a clear path were mapped out. Other years, it seemed unfamiliar paths branched off the main roadway. I got to the Triduum and Easter sure enough, but I was definitely on newly trodden paths. That must be grace working.
This third week of Lent I find a path wandering through reflections on forgiveness. There is an invitation to walk that mystery, to see some of its many facets and appreciate it as if it were a jewel of great price. One not always available for the appreciation of its ‘terrible beauty’; one that may be happily buried waiting for some special grace to give the energy to dig it up and polish it up.
We may have begun this week with the Samaritan woman at the well? It is one of the great Lenten readings as we prepare for Baptism, along with the healing at Siloam and the raising of Lazarus. It is not a ‘sign’ or miracle in John’s gospel, although it accomplishes the same goal: it moves us to faith. Our Lord’s forgiveness is revealed in his open acceptance of the Samaritan woman. Wells are marital symbols in the Old Testament and there seems to be love at first sight at Jacob’s Well. The love in God’s eyes for each of us is the certainty of God’s forgiving love for us.
We hear Peter question the limits of love, ‘how about seven times?’. Our week will end tomorrow with the the Pharisee and a humble man, eyes downcast, seated in the last row, who asks God for mercy, “I am a sinner”.
I connect today with Wednesday when we were told not to forget, not to let slip from our memory the marvels of God’s love for us. Don’t forget that God forgets our sins, crimson becomes white! And remember all of the manifestations of God’s love. These prove God’s forgiveness. A thousand generations are forgiven, two or three aren’t! We are suppose to laugh when we hear those numbers. God is in favor of forgiveness. Yes, at least we can breath a sigh of relief if not a roar of laughter at God’s humor.
We are a people uniquely loved by God, each of us and all of us. We are manifestations of God’s love to one another. As the Father has forgiven us, so we are to forgive one another, to try to forgive one another, and to ask the Father to help us to do this! We are to love God and our neighbor. As we acknowledge our sin we see how God’s infinite, creative goodness fills in the emptiness and void that sin makes. Let us love God and our neighbor as ourself, let us forgive our neighbor as God’s love forgives us.
Fr. William Murphy, CP is the pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Jamaica, New York.