Friday, November 06, 2009

Fr.Wells' bulletin inserts


Today's reading from Matthew's Gospel deals with the matter of forgiveness. It involves a long parable which illustrates the familiar petition from the Lord's Prayer, given in Matthew as “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” but in Luke as “forgive us our sins for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” (The familiar liturgical form, “Forgive us our trespasses,” is only a paraphrase.)

The petition briefly and the parable at length state with perfect clarity the correlation between God's forgiveness of the debt we owe Him (a debt which can only be satisfied by the blood of God's own Son) and the offenses we have suffered from others. As God has shown mercy and forgiveness to us, Christians likewise are bound to show similar mercy and forgiveness. Christians may never seek revenge on those who have wronged us, may never practice spite, and may never hold grudges. Such behavior is truly natural for us because our nature is sinful. But the Christian is a man or woman who is controlled not by nature but by super-nature. We live not according to our old fallen state but by grace and the new nature God has given us.

But sad to say, we commonly distort this noble, beautiful, and painful vision of Christian behavior. We must take great heed to our spiritual condition whenever we say, “You should be more forgiving,” or “He should not feel that way.” The requirement of forgiveness is no rule for us to apply to others! If Bill injures John's home, family, or fortune, it is not for Steve to tell John, “You ought not hold that grudge.” When we fall into that moral trap, we are probably failing to practice forgiveness ourselves. As the Gospel has been secularized and diluted, the principle of forgiveness has become warped and judgmental. We all know many Steves who will sit in judgment on John without knowing the full story of what Bill has done.

Forgiveness also must never become the mask for moral indifference. Our Lord does not ask us (on the contrary, He forbids us!) to engage in sloppy moral judgments. We are never to stand idly by when others are being harmed or when evil itself goes on a rampage. When the Nazis were slaughtering the Jews and numerous others with them, there were many sentimental folk, who considered themselves to be excellent Christians, who urged a “forgiving” attitude toward the Nazis. Who would presume to “forgive” an abortionist?

When we see (and we are under judgment if we fail to see) the public harmed by the bad behavior of our leaders, our duty is not to forgive but to confront and to remove. The rule of forgiveness is no license for moral compromise or surrender to evil. LKW


Alice C. Linsley said...

I imagine it is going to be very hard for the families who lost loved ones at Fort Hood to forgive Major Hassan. I guess that's why forgiveness is a sign of God's presence in our lives. On our own we can't do it.

poetreader said...

That's known as being between a rock and a hard place. If we do not truly, actively, and selflessly love our enemies, we are in direct disobedience to the Lord's commandment. The commandment is humanly impossible.

As with other sins, we cannot obey and we must. That's why Christians need to live a life of repentance. We must know and admit that we are sinners, and that sin has its strongest grip in those areas where we think ourselves righteous. Repentance is not only saying, "I'm sorry." but asking Him to change us in ways we do not want to be changed, and accepting his action to change us.


Fr. John said...

Fr. Wells,

Amen, and amen.

We are wise to do all in our power to prevent evil from triumphing, otherwise why are we called soldiers of Christ? We have a positive duty to defend the weak and defenseless. How could I stand by passively and watch my own wife and children be assaulted, raped, and murdered?

Our times have redefined the definition of the word "war." We have now fought many undeclared wars beginning with Korea down to the present wars. We have changed the rules for treatment of POWS and have conducted the mass bombing of civilians. Under these circumstances it's hard to define when one is at war or merely acting alone.

The renegade Muslim U.S. Army Major who killed those soldiers at Ft. Hood is living proof of the confusion and chaos that reigns. It was the positive duty of anyone there who could shoot him down to do so. This guy switched sides in our present undeclared war. It was an act of war to stop him from his murderous assault by any means necessary. A Christian duty as well as a patriotic one.

I am a soldier, and when I am at war my killing the enemy is not murder.

Alice C. Linsley said...

I didn't mean to get off topic, Fr. Wells. I've been very upset abot the Ft. Hood shootings. Perhaps because I have many family memebrs and friends who are serving or have served in the US armed forces.I think how difficult it would be to forgive this man were one of the victims a family member.

I agree with Fr. John. You have to pity such a sick person as Maj. Hasan. It boggles the mind that an Army psychiatric would murder the very soldiers he was trained to care for because he was teased about his religion. Give me a break! This guy must have the ego strength of a pussy willow.

And it appears that his grasp on reality is tenuous. Imagine a soldier thinking that he should be exempt from deployment! But this soldier is apparently a self-styled terrorist. That's the message he sent when he jumped on to a desk and started screaming 'Allahu Akbar' - God is Great - and fired on his fellow soldiers.

Other than for the victims' families, how does one pray in this situation?

Fr. John said...

For the conversion of the Muslims.

Anonymous said...

My community is currently tortured by the murder of a seven year old girl, by a monster who is still at large. I have never experienced anything like the pain of her family and close friends. I could not indulge in the usual platitudes about forgiveness. I greatly admire the examples of Carry Ten Boom and Pope John Paul II, but I have not been tested as they were.
Yes, Ft Hood has been on my mind and heart these last couple of days. As I drove by NAS Jax this afternoon, I noticed the flags at half mast and teared up.

Jamie+ said...

As a military member - a chaplain - I appreciate the conversations revolving around the theme of forgiveness. I believe all has been said that needs to be said regarding Maj. Hassan. I have talked to several of my unit members who had family members wounded at Ft. Hood. I believe at times the prayer "Lord I can't forgive - I don't want to forgive - help me forgive" is the best prayer we can say.

In Christ
Fr Jamie
Chaplain - Air Force Reserves

poetreader said...

Thank you, Fr. Jamie. That is my own frequent prayer -- and God does answer it.


Deacon Down Under said...

I spent years consumed with anger and an inability to forgive 4 pedophile priests from the Anglican Church of Australia who shattered my faith in the priesthood and the Church for decades.

If it were not for the intervention of Christ in my life, maybe I would have at best had the anger fade with the passing years.

When we can least forgive, when we can least cope with pain, that is the time to be reaching out to Our blessed Lord, for shelter, for healing and for grace to try and face those barriers to true forgiveness.

Forgiveness is not an optional extra for every Christian, and we all need to recognise that when we cannot forgive, our own relationship with God is damaged.

Allen Lewis said...

Well said, Fr. Wells! Especially the part about not falling into moral laziness. Evil must be confronted, not passed over. The worker of the evil must be forgiven, but his acts cannot be. The worker of the evil must be brought to justice - as imperfect as that might be in this less than ideal world. Then he can be truly forgiven.

We are, indeed, allowed to "hate the sin but not the sinner."

Allen Lewis said...

David Gould -

Your post was very moving and very true. No one knows what may happen in his/her life that will bring the crisis of forgiveness. But rest assured of two things:

1) Sooner or later, every Christian will have that crisis in his life;

2) Forgiveness is not an option; it is a requirement of our Lord and if we ask, he will give us the grace to forgive.


John A. Hollister said...

Alice C. Linsley asked, "Other than for the victims' families, how does one pray in this situation [the massacre at Ft. Hood]?"

Fr. John answered, "For the conversion of the Muslims."

In that spirit, I offer this, from the Scottish Book of Common Prayer (1929):

For the Conversion of Mohammedans and all who know not Christ.

ALMIGHTY God, our heavenly Father, who in thy goodness hast caused the light of the Gospel to shine in our land: Extend thy mercy, we beseech thee, to the nations of the world that still walk in darkness. Enlighten the Moslems with the knowledge of thy truth; and grant that the Gospel of salvation may be made known in all lands, that the heart of the peoples may be turned unto thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

John A. Hollister+

Alice C. Linsley said...

Amen. Amen. Amen.