Forgive and You Will be Forgiven Week 5 - God Uses Even Our Offenses

(March 20, 2022)

Bottom line: Even our offenses will become part of God's story: a story of shame for those who do not seek forgiveness, but a story of mercy for those who listen to Jesus' words: "Forgive and you will be forgiven." Amen

This Lent we have a difficult topic: forgiveness. Receiving forgiveness from God and extending forgiveness to others. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Forgiveness has declined in our society. We have embraced a cancel culture that throws offenders on the garbage heap. You would think we would more come together since our lives are so fragile. The invasion of Ukraine raised the threat of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. Not only is our world fragile, but as we saw a couple weeks ago any of us could give in to a catastrophic temptation. Because of this St. Paul says, "We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Last Sunday we saw the foundation for forgiveness: the sacrifice of Jesus - his "exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem." More about that central mystery when we get to Holy Week.

Today we take a different tack. We hear how Jesus views offenses. In this case an outrage committed by Pilate. People ask Jesus about "the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices". Jesus could have denounced Pilate but instead he asks a question: "Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans?"

We often wonder why God permits terrible things to happen. Why didn't he stop Hitler? Why doesn't he stop the Russian invaders? All of us are praying he will. But we have to face the fact that God gives us free choice - and that means the possibility of abusing our freedom.

Nevertheless, God uses even our sins to bring about his purpose. We see that in the story of Joseph whose brothers sold him into slavery. Joseph eventually becomes prime minister of Egypt and when a famine hits, his brothers go to Egypt seeking food. Dressed in Egyptian clothes and speaking a different language, they don't recognize their brother. Joseph gives them food and eventually reveals himself, forgiving his brothers. But the brothers are uncertain and when their father Jacob dies, they think that now Joseph will get his revenge. But Joseph breaks down in tears and says, "Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good, to achieve this present end, the survival of many people".

So God is able to use offenses, even outrages to bring about his purpose. That outrage could be the infidelity that leads to divorce or a false accusation that costs someone their job. I know it sounds horrible to say, but God could use those horrors to achieve a greater purpose.

The Chronicles of Narnia tell about a terrible offense that leads to a long range good. Do you remember how Edmund betrayed his brother and sisters? Because of his betrayal he now belongs to the white witch, the queen, who sharpens a knife in order to kill Edmund. Aslan the Lion recognizes the queen's legal right to kill the boy, but he offers himself in place of Edmund. The white witch accepts, not knowing that Aslan's death will reverse death itself.

When Aslan returns from the dead he brings the gift of forgiveness to Edmund. Then Edmund seeks forgiveness from his brother and sisters. "Edmund shook hands with each of the each of them in turn saying, 'I'm sorry,' and everyone said, 'That's all right.'" Reconciliation doesn't take big words, but it does take a big heart. God has to replace our hearts of stone. We'll learn more next week when we hear Jesus' greatest parable of forgiveness.

For today I would like to conclude with a quote from G.K. Chesterton: "I had always felt life first as a story: and if there is a story there is a story-teller". Even our offenses will become part of that story: a story of shame for those who do not seek forgiveness, but a story of mercy for those who listen to Jesus' words: "Forgive and you will be forgiven." Amen

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Other Homilies

From Archives (Year C homilies for Third Sunday of Lent):

Outrage and Disaster (2019)
First Things: Confession (2016)
The Stakes Are High (2013)
Purpose of the Church (2010)
What is His Name? (2007)
Primary Purpose of the Church (2004)
If You Do Not Repent (2001)
You Stink! (1998)

From Archives (Year A homilies for Third Sunday of Lent):

The First Scrutiny (2020)
Best Lent Ever Week 3: A Good Listener (2017)
Prayer and Spiritual Combat Week 3 (2014)
Thirst (2011)
Why So Dissatisfied? (2008)
The Scent of Water (2005)
What She Desired (2002)
The One You Want (1999)

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

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Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Kurt Nagel (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron

Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)

Parish Picture Album

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MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru

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