If God were to reveal to us His incredible goodness which He desires to share with us someday, we would probably perish, overwhelmed by sheer joy.
Therefore, God gives out His goodness in incremental amounts suited to our needs. For example, when we're deeply hurt by the words or actions of another, we suffer intensely and face a clear choice: retaliation, or turning to God for comfort and support.
When we turn to God for comfort and support, we respond to the initiative the Father put into our hearts. The hurt placed in our hearts has created an urge either to inflict pain, or to receive from God His overwhelming goodness.
That's the thinking behind the first reading for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time from Sirach. Wrath and anger are evil, and yet the sinner "hugs them tight." If we focus on the attractiveness of wrath and anger, we will readily become their victims.
However, if we remember that God has made a covenant with us to love us unconditionally and to relentlessly forgive us as often as we repent, then every time we forgive someone a hurt, we participate in God's everlasting goodness.
The more practice we get in forgiveness, the more we enter into the midst of the Most Holy Trinity. Forgiving others is merely passing along what we have so freely received from God. The ability to forgive stems from the ability to remember. We're participants in God's everlasting and all-pervasive goodness. We're immersed in His flow of love.
In the Gospel, humanity's spokesperson, St. Peter, speaks up for all of us limited beings. After all, there has to be some limit to this forgiveness thing. Peter is speaking up for what seems to us just common sense.
Peter thought he was safe if he used seven as the perfect number, limiting the times we can be expected to forgive. Jesus responds, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy times seven."
In the story He relates, Jesus uses the example of two debtors. One owes the equivalent of 600,000 times as much as the other. To put it into today's equivalent terms, the one who was forgiven $600,000 went out and put into prison the debtor who owed the rich man a mere $1. When the master found out about the affair, he put the man who owed $600,000 into prison until he paid back the entire debt.
Jesus concludes the teaching by saying, "So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart."
From this parable, I take away a simple thought. I want to make certain daily that when I meet my Maker, I don't owe anyone any unforgiveness.
In order to make this a possibility, and hopefully a probability, let us go back and focus on our reflections that humans aren't able to comprehend the fullness of God's goodness.
Therefore God gives out His goodness to us incrementally. When we are hurt, we can retaliate or turn to God for comfort and support.
Having said that, we want to participate as intensely as we can in God's love for the world. That makes every injury or hurt we receive from another an opportunity to participate in God's goodness to His people in the world.
Rather than wait for an apology that may never come, we are invited to take the initiative and extend God's forgiveness to them wherever they are.
Take a look at the larger picture. From our present view of the world, the future may never have looked as bleak as it does now. Yet that simply makes it more exciting. The Holy Spirit is far bigger than Satan and all the forces he has aligned with him. Yet, we concede none of them to Satan. We want them all redeemed.
What would happen if a new Pentecost broke out in the United States, Europe, the Mid-East and the Far East? We would simply be overwhelmed participators in God's plan to redeem the world.
On the other hand, what if it all ended in a nuclear holocaust? We would still be participants in God's overwhelming goodness.
My point is very simple. God's goodness is so overwhelming we cannot lose. He calls us to trust in Him, to intercede with Him, and never to lose faith in His power to do good. The world did not see the Resurrection coming. The world did not see Pentecost coming. We may not live to see this world end, but we will live to see our world end.
I'll conclude with a quote the St. Therese the Little Flower copied into her diary from Father Charles Arminjon's book, "The End of the Present World."
"And the grateful God cries out: now, my turn! The saints have given me the gift of themselves: can I respond other than by giving myself, without restriction and without measure? ...I must unite myself to them in an eternal face-to-face, so that my glory illuminates them, exudes and radiates through all the pores of their being so that, 'knowing me as I know them, they may become Gods themselves.'"
Remind me to discuss this again 100 years from now! RELATED ARTICLE(S):I thought you should know | The forgiveness of sins is more than a private matter