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제목 The Forgiveness of Offenses (2017-07-09)
작성자 관리자 작성일 2017-07-10




The Forgiveness of Offenses (2017-07-09)


My dear Brethren,


The holy Gospel today teaches us a very important point of the Christian morals: forgiveness of the offenses, reconciliation with our brethren: “If therefore thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there thou remember that thy brother hath anything against thee; Leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother: and then coming thou shalt offer thy gift” (Mt. 5:23-24). St Augustine comments: God does not want our gift since He owns all things, but He wants ourselves, our heart, and our heart belongs truly to God when it is filled with the Charity of the Holy Ghost, that necessarily includes charity towards the neighbour.


This duty to go and reconcile applies first of all to the person who has offended his brother, his neighbour, but it also applies to the person who has been offended. The one who has offended the other has the duty to go and ask forgiveness, apologizing for the offense done and making reparation for it. The one who has been offended has the duty to welcome and easily forgive the offense. Our Lord comes back many times on this duty to forgive: “When you shall stand to pray, forgive, if you have anything against any man; that your Father also, who is in heaven, may forgive you your sins” (Mk. 11:25). “For if you will forgive men their offences, your heavenly Father will forgive you also your offences” (Mt. 6:14). “But if you will not forgive, neither will your Father that is in heaven, forgive you your sins” (Mk. 11:26).


Forgiveness is not weakness, but rather a victory of good over evil, as St Paul says: “To no man rendering evil for evil. Providing good things, not only in the sight of God, but also in the sight of all men” (Rom. 12:17). And he concludes: “Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good” (Rom. 12:21). Otherwise, if one renders a second evil for a first evil, it is a vicious circle: the other will do the same and render a third evil, and then a fourth evil, back and forth for ever. The only way to break this vicious circle of rendering evil for evil is, as St Paul said above, not to render evil for evil but to overcome evil by good. This is the Catholic way, this is truly the way of our Lord Jesus Christ.


In order to forgive our neighbour, we must renounce our own selves: and this is the source of difficulty. To forgive is the perfection of giving: it is not only giving things, but giving our own heart, renouncing our rights in order to please God and restore friendship with our neighbour. Our Lord Jesus Christ gave us the great example on the Cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34). In the very act of forgiving our neighbour, we learn as in a small mirror the beauty of the forgiveness and the depth of love our Lord has had for us.


Some people are willing to give, but not to forgive: that is not good enough. Our Lord asks from us a higher perfection, and in His Providence He sometimes does not prevent that we be offended, so that we may have the occasion to forgive our neighbour. May we joyfully take that occasion!


One common occasion of offenses is by words. Gossiping, all kinds of criticisms, unjust accusations and suspicions, condemnations of others more than they deserve, etc. all such words can badly hurt our neighbour and we must forbid ourselves such evil words. Now there are degrees in these evil, but we should not even start. Gossiping is the first degree: it is to speak about true and public evils, such as evils of public persons that are fully documented in newspapers, or known evil within one’s own circle of friends. Gossiping is wrong because it relishes in evil, as if one takes pleasure to speak about such things. This is obviously wrong. If such subject is brought up, we should ask what can we do to help correct that evil – at least to pray for the correction of the evildoers. We should not add to such gossip by saying: and this one did this and that one did that, etc.


The second degree is detraction, when we reveal the hidden evil of others. This often happens when we have been offended by one but others do not know about it, and we complain to them of the offense of the first – and they are not in a position to help correct the situation. This is wrong, both because it is speaking about the evil of others, but also because it attacks the good reputation of the first person. Moreover, when one has been hurt, one has usually the tendency to increase the offense, to make it look worse, to see evil intent in the person who offended us, etc: such tendency easily leads to the third level of evil speech: calumny.

 
Calumny is indeed worse, accusing another of an evil that he or she did not do. St Thomas Aquinas explains that such calumny can come because the author of the calumny is himself an evil person, and evil persons tend to think everyone else is like to them! They sometimes think virtue is not possible and tend to accuse of hidden sins those whom they cannot accuse of open sins, so they see evil intent where there is none, etc. St Thomas says that it can also come from the fact that the author of the calumny has an evil disposition towards the other: if he has been hurt by the other, he accuses the other with exaggeration, increasing the evils; if someone harbours some hatred towards another, he will interpret in evil every action of the other person, most of the time falsely.


Calumny can be a mortal sin: if we accuse someone else of a grievous sin which he did not do, then we are guilty of the grievous sin of calumny. If we accuse someone of a venial sin, then the calumny is only venial. Detraction also can be mortally sinful, if one without any reason reveals publicly a hidden grievous sin.


St Thomas explains that these sins are against justice, because they deprive the neighbour of his good reputation. We would not want others to do that to us, so we should not do it to them! It goes without saying that such sins are also against charity. Charity does not even think evil of the neighbour: it “thinketh no evil;” (1 Cor. 13:5). At the root of these sins there is often pride: one judges others because one thinks oneself superior to the others; we want others to do what we want, as if it would be the only right way. Where the Church herself makes no rule, we add our own rules. At the root of charity, there is humility, because “God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (Jam. 4:6). The humble easily renounces his own way to go along the other, as our Lord says: “whosoever will force thee one mile, go with him other two” (Mt. 5:41).


There is another kind of evil speech: angry words, offending words, bitter words. Such words do hurt the neighbour, but they manifest the bitterness in our own hearts, as our Lord says: “the things which proceed out of the mouth, come forth from the heart, and those things defile a man” (Mt. 15:18). It is evident that we must absolutely forbid ourselves such words!


Yet if we are the victims of such words, or of such calumny, we should not render evil for evil, nor get angry, but rather thank God. Indeed, we should remember those words of our Saviour: “Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake: be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven. For so they persecuted the prophets that were before you” (Mt. 5:11-12).


Up to here, I spoke about evil words. But words proceed from thoughts. We must not say evil words; we must not even have evil thoughts about our neighbour. Such are called by St Thomas “rash judgements”: condemning others with insufficient evidence; interpreting in evil that which is not necessary evil; seeing evil intention where there may be none; exaggerating the fault of others in our mind; and worse: wishing evil to our neighbour. Even if we do not let such thoughts be expressed in words, we should not even harbour them at all: it is already sinful to harbour them.


One should therefore fight against such evil thoughts; the best way to fight against such is to look at our Lord Jesus Christ crucified, and repeat with Him many times: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34). We should beg the Sacred Heart “to make our heart like unto His”. I beg you, my dear brethren, that there be no such words, not even such thoughts among all of us, so that our Lord may reign among us. Let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of mercy, Virgin most clement, to help us and give us her thoughts, the thoughts that were in Her Immaculate Heart so that we learn to love God and our neighbour as our Lord Jesus Christ loved His Father and loved us. Amen.


Fr. F. Laisney