Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword '€“ Forgiveness
The name given to today'€™s liturgy '€“ Triumph of the Cross - ‚ is a strange one and can‚  have many meanings '€“ a symbol of triumph after centuries of denial; of obedience; inhumanity, suffering, sacrifice, among others. ‚ For our purposes today, the cross is a symbol of forgiveness‚ 

Numbers 21: 4-9: The incident describing the rebellion of the Hebrews as they trekked across the seemingly endless desert and the opportunity for forgiveness that was offered to them in the symbol of the bronze serpent makes the point that forgiveness only comes through repentance.

Phil. 2:6-11: Asking for forgiveness involves an act of humility. ‚ In opening the way to forgiveness, Christ gave the example of humility by submitting to the disgrace of execution as a criminal on the cross.

John 3: 13-17: Just as the raised serpent offered forgiveness to the rebellious Hebrews, so Christ raised on the cross opened up the possibility of forgiveness for all who ask for it.‚ 

Point 1: There are few, I imagine, who are not revolted by, or at least dismayed by, the daily accounts of terrorism and lawlessness which afflict our world today. I suppose it could be argued that much of what is happening can be traced back to the "blood feud" mentality that characterised the life styles of so many people - the feuding mountain people of the US immortalised in the "Martin and the Coys"; the Sicilian vendetta together with similar thinking to be found in the Balkan countries; the "eye for an eye" of the ancient Jewish code so epitomised in the continuing struggle of Jew with Arab; Greeks and Turks have been warring over Cyprus for a thousand years; Catholic and Protestants have been at each other's throats for half as long; Christian and Moslem... and so the list goes on making one think that where the vicious tribal divisions of primitive people have appeared to disappear, they are only coated by a a very thin veneer of civilised thinking. Well, we may appear to be powerless to impact on the world scene, but we can do something at the local level. ‚ At the local, personal level, we find little difference; the same warring spirit is always near at hand.

Point 2: How hard it is for the average person to apologise, or to accept an apology! So many are unwilling to acknowledge fault and so do not recognise the need to apologise or to accept an apology. And yet, at the very core of Christ's teaching is this need to respect and to forgive. "Feuding", even in its more limited and localised form of 'no-speaks' is out of character for the Christian. No one denies that to ask for forgiveness and to forgive are both difficult. Either action appears to be a "surrender". No doubt Christ had that in mind when he taught us to pray -"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" and set the example from the cross "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do".

Conclusion: On the practical side - how long is it since I was involved in a disagreement? And to what extent did I contribute to it starting or continuing? Did I assign all the blame to the other person and, consequently, sit back and wait for an apology. There is an old saying that "it takes two to tango"; equally it takes two to make a quarrel, either to start it or to keep it going. May this short reflection help me to see whether I take seriously this need to be reconciled with others? to know whether I allow family grudges to drag on? To know whether I am a "stirrer" leaving a trail of dissension and bitterness where I have passed by? On the other hand, do I have the courage, the maturity and strength of personality to say -"I don't care how it started; I am sorry for my part in it and now let us stop it"!

Scriptural reference: "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but, if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matt. 6:14-15)