Was it Mary Magdalen or another woman to whom Luke’s (7:47) gospel refers? It is an interesting but still rather unusual idea to consider being forgiven much because one has loved much and forgiven little because on has loved little. As Pope Francis would say, “Who are we to judge?”
This month of February has been devoted to the theme LOVING FAMILIES MATTER. It is obvious and natural to assume that love is at the heart of family life. At the same time it is ironic but true that even in abusive families love does still exist. The gospel of Sunday of 7th week contains a similar sentiment in the challenging statement “Love your enemies, do good to those who harm you.”
In his Angelus homily at the conclusion of the meeting in Rome of Presidents of Bishops Conferences on the Protection of Minors the Pope preached on the gospel stating, “This Sunday’s Gospel relates to a key and characterizing point of the Christian life: love of enemies. Jesus’ words are clear: ‘I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.’ He added,“It’s not optional; it’s a command.”
Moments later he made reference to the meeting conclusions stating, “We heard the voice of the victims, we prayed and asked God and the offended persons for forgiveness, we became aware of our responsibilities, of our duty to do justice in truth, to reject radically every form of abuse of power, of conscience and of sexual abuse. We want all the Church’s activities and places to be always fully safe for our minors; so that in every way the very grave scourge of violence in dealing with hundreds of millions of minors, girls and boys, is combatted in the whole world. The Church must return to be absolutely credible and reliable in her mission of service and education for little ones according to Jesus’ teaching.” www.zenit.org
Should there be a connection between these two references to Jesus’ teaching? Is the reality not as complex as that? Is it possible to clean out the stables completely when the guilt of not owning up to misdeeds is everywhere else too? And how can that be an excuse?
In sharing a few thoughts on marriage in a parish setting I also referred to the Sunday gospel and asked “When has your spouse been your enemy? When have you had to love this enemy who shares your bed and your home?” The gospel asks you to forgive and couples do so many times. In my years of marriage ministry and in our own marriage I learned that almost daily couples could ask for forgiveness for any hurts caused deliberately or unconsciously. Forgiveness too can be offered before it is asked for. The gift and ability to forgive is one of the graces of the sacrament. Forgiveness is nevertheless not automatically granted.
A scenario that still disturbs me, here in South Africa, is the political assassination of Chris Hani by Janusz Walus in 1993. His death sentence was commuted to life. Imprisoned now for 25 years his lawyers have requested parole on a number of occasions. It has regularly been denied, we are told, partly because of the Hani family’s refusal to forgive. Yes, the issue of remorse features here too, but this is also complicated by the political nature of the act. Is remorse a prerequisite for forgiveness and parole. Does mercy, as Pope Francis often states, even override remorse?
Is there no forgiveness due to abusers? Pope Francis said that the Church has asked forgiveness of the offended, but nothing has been said about offenders. They are guilty but may well have become good priests, fathers, brothers or uncles for years after the abusive events. Similarly for women. Many of us know. They may be hypocrites but so may we be.
In creating the March THOUGHTS FOR THE DAY the reading for March 15 has challenged me. Thus says the Lord, “If a wicked man turns away from all his sins which he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. None of the transgression which he has committed shall be remembered against him. When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, he shall die for it. Eze 18:21-28. Pope Francis: Mere justice is not enough. God goes beyond justice with his mercy and forgiveness. Anyone who makes a mistake must pay the price, but this is just the beginning of conversion. God does not deny justice, he envelopes it and surpasses it with an even greater event in which we experience love as the foundation of true justice. MV21
Can love and mercy heal the pain both of the offended and of the offender? Should it do so for forgiveness to be complete? TR FAMILY WEEKLY 27 February 2019.