There were many times I remember coming home from school angry or upset because of something that happened that day.
I’m sure all of us were picked on in school at one point or another. It took me a long time to learn to roll with it.
In elementary there was one boy in my class who always made fun of me, because he could always get a reaction. I remember one day, probably in the third or fourth grade, when he said something that made me so mad. I chased him all around the playground. He was a small, but an extremely fast kid. I was tall and had long legs, which helped me to eventually catch up to him. When I caught up to him I gave him a push, which sent him tumbling to the ground on a sidewalk. Our teacher had had enough of our feuding and sent us both inside, where we lost recess privileges for a month. The consequences seemed at the time extremely harsh, especially since he started it. But my mom never saw things that way, and did her best to teach me. I cannot remember the exact phrase that she would use, but it was always something like “it takes two to tango.”
This always meant that my reaction had been wrong and that I needed to forgive. In moments like those, many of which I would bring home to her, she always had the same advice. “You have to forgive, you have to forgive.” I never wanted to. It was always the last thing that I wanted to hear, and it just didn’t seem fair, but she was always right. I have a memory seared in my mind of her saying, “Just do it!” One thing that all the teasing did teach me was to treat others how I want to be treated, to try to be humble and kind.
Now that I am a priest, one of the most beautiful and powerful moments that I experience is when I offer God’s mercy, kindness and forgiveness to people in the confessional. Jesus told his apostles after His resurrection “’Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.
If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained’” (John 20:21-23). Jesus is very clear that they were to carry on His mission, and to continue to spread the good news of redemption, through the forgiveness of sins. But it wasn’t just that he told them to simply spread the good news about forgiveness, he told them to bring forgiveness. He gave them authority to forgive sins.
This is an amazing gift. We are all human and we know that we all make mistakes. That is why it is so important to say those words “I forgive you.” It is also very important for us to hear those healing words “I forgive you.”
As powerful as those words are coming from a human being, they are even more powerful coming from God, because they effect what they signify. For He tells us “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions form us” (Psalm 103:12). It is always so humbling to watch and see the powerful healing God accomplishes, and even more so to be an instrument of that forgiveness.
This weekend’s readings speak to us of the great kindness of God, who is “merciful and gracious slow to anger, abounding in kindness and fidelity” (Psalm 86:15-16). The first reading from the book of Wisdom says, “But though you are the master of might, you judge with clemency, and with lenience you govern us” (Wisdom 12:18). The Gospel is from Matthew 13; the parable of the wheat and the weeds. In this parable the Lord sows the wheat, which is His word in the field of the world, but an enemy comes in the darkness and sows weeds, which represents wickedness.
In the passage the word in Greek for the weeds that are sown is basically a counterfeit wheat. It looks just like wheat for the most part and you cannot tell until the fruit begins to show. In the passage, the servants of the field owner come to him and say, “‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my bar’” (Matthew 13:27-30). The wheat represents the “children of the kingdom” while the weeds represent the “children of the evil one.”
The Lord lets the two grow together until end because the roots are intertwined. He is patient and good. He does not want any of those who would bear fruit to be uprooted prematurely. He wants to give us all every last opportunity to let the seeds of His word bear fruit in our lives. He keeps on forgiving us, He keeps granting us His mercy, hoping that when we experience His kindness and love, we might be drawn to be transformed by His grace.
God is a kind and merciful father, who gives us every opportunity to turn to Him and be saved through the forgiveness of our sins. Our job is to ask for forgiveness and to never tire of turning to His mercy.
He never tires of giving it to us, if we are sincere. Not only does He want us to experience His kindness, mercy and forgiveness, but also, He wants us to become instruments and ministers of it.
While I did not enjoy being teased as a kid, the Lord was using those situations to teach me about His forgiveness and His kindness. I might have gone the opposite direction and been filled with bitterness and anger.
Thanks to my mother, I have come to understand more about the kindness of God and how we are to become like Him, striving to forgive and to be kind, even in the face of injustice and cruelty.
Once we have tasted the healing power of the kindness of the Lord, we cannot help but to become witnesses to it. So, let us turn to the kindness of God which manifests itself most beautifully in His mercy and forgiveness. Let us strive to be like Him, always humble, merciful and kind.