We live in a world of tit for tat. The rhythm of history is one of hurt, resentment and revenge. Efforts at peace have been, in the larger picture of history, ineffective. Forgiveness has always been in short supply, extremely difficult and short-term. Fake.
Christians have been celebrating Easter, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to our world some two thousand years ago to break the cycle of injury and revenge. He accomplished this in his death and resurrection through forgiveness.
The gospel stories that tell of Jesus’ appearances after his death and resurrection show the companions of Jesus experiencing forgiveness and new life. Their belief in him during the years they were with him turned out to have been ‘faith lite’. They mostly deserted him on the first Good Friday, leaving him to die without their support. And they didn’t expect him to rise from the dead, even though he told them he would.
The mess Jesus found the world to be in when he came was characterised by greed, injustice, exploitation, violence and revenge. His mission was to confront it as he found it in his neck of the woods, and offer genuine peace and non-fake forgiveness.
We hear in this Sunday’s Gospel these words of Jesus: ‘Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them….’ There are two aspects to the Greek word for forgiveness used by John: to banish or eject something; and to hold on to something. One aspect releases us from the limitations, constraints and consequences of our wrongdoing. The other offers a fresh start and a new life.
The special characteristic of Jesus’ forgiveness was his willingness to accept personally the cost of humanities wrongdoing. To those who have faith in his forgiveness by offering pardon and forgiveness to others, Jesus promised eternal life both here and hereafter – John 3:16
Fr. QQ 6/4/18