Forgiveness...Can You Imagine?
Updated: Sep 21, 2020
Gospel Reflection for 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Imagine for a minute that your beloved spouse cheated on you with your neighbor. Your heart is torn into pieces. You are shocked and disgusted at what they have done to your heart, your home, and your family. Do you forgive? This same person provided the guns that your eldest child would use in a deadly duel against a peer who was speaking badly about your spouse. In the midst of your own grief of losing your child, your spouse asks for forgiveness and the grace to grieve by your side. Do you forgive AGAIN?
While reflecting on this week's Gospel, I imagined this beautiful scene from Hamilton.
Shane Liesegang, SJ described this scene beautifully in The Jesuit Post here:
Alexander becomes estranged from his wife Eliza after a very public infidelity that also ended his political career. When their son is killed, Alexander and Eliza struggle to mourn their child while there is still such a gulf between them.
Hamilton hits bottom, and lets go of his pride. He pleads with Eliza, reprising a song from earlier in the show, but now singing her melody and recognizing that he’s unworthy of her. She stands, expressionless and motionless, as Alexander finally meets a problem he can’t talk his way out of. His words can’t fix these things. Nothing can. If she would just let him stay, let him be with her, that would be enough. He commits to doing the work.
Eliza’s sister Angelica narrates the moment as the couple stands forlorn in their garden. It’s perhaps the quietest moment in a show that can approach frenetic. Without changing her empty exhausted expression, Eliza subtly takes Alexander’s hand as the chorus, in lovely harmony, simply intones the word “forgiveness.”
Forgiveness is a hard thing to feature in a work of art because if it’s real, it often seems irrational from the outside. Unjustified. There’s so much work to be done to get the audience to an emotional place where the need to be forgiven is so strong that reason disengages and they can experience the relief and peace alongside the character. Watching Hamilton break into tears as Eliza finally returns his line of “it’s quiet uptown” doesn’t make any sense. Forgiveness often doesn’t. It goes against every instinct we have. That’s what makes it so beautiful.
Angelica says of that moment, “there’s a grace too powerful to name.” Eliza may not believe Alexander’s pleas, but in that moment, she knows that she still loves him. Her forgiveness comes from love, not restitution. Freely given forgiveness to the undeserving is the essence of grace,
Fr. Liesegang highlights the fact that forgiveness doesn't make sense. Alexander hurt Eliza multiple times, and yet he was met with love and grace. This made me think about the impact of sin. We have offended God and His beloved children more than we realize. It doesn't make sense that God would become a man to save and forgive us in the greatest love story ever told. But He did! He offers us this merciful grace each and every day.
Forgiveness... can you imagine?
A decade ago, I was compiling resources for my Senior Comprehensive paper on the "Importance of Christian Marriage Counseling." My mom invited my family to go hear a woman speak about her experience in the Holocaust. That was the day I discovered Eva Kor and decided my Senior Comprehensive presentation would be on "The Power of Forgiveness."
It doesn't make sense that a child treated as a human guinea pig in Auschwitz would later forgive a Nazi soldier as an adult. But she did! Her witness has greatly inspired me from that day forward. Check out more about her story and The Forgiveness Project
She describes her experience of forgiving:
I realized I had the power now…the power to forgive. It was my right to use it. No one could take it away... I felt a burden of pain was lifted from me. I was no longer in the grip of hate; I was finally free.
Forgiveness is really nothing more than an act of self-healing and self-empowerment. I call it a miracle medicine. It is free, it works and has no side effects.
I believe with every fiber of my being that every human being has the right to live without the pain of the past.
There are beautiful stories of forgiveness every day. We can just type "forgiveness" into the search engine and find story after story after story about forgiveness. Not all forgiveness requires reconciliation, however. The offender may not even be aware that you have forgiven him or her. Eva Kor speaks about forgiveness being a right to self-healing because you make a personal decision to no longer carry the weight of the resentment against another.
Forgiveness means: "to cease to feel resentment against."
Reconciliation means: "to restore friendship"
Jesus forgives us AND calls us back into friendship with Him. If you are Catholic and have not been to the Sacrament of Reconciliation for a while, please go as soon as possible. It is a powerful experience of encountering Christ's mercy in response to an honest, humble confession of all of the ways we have sinned against God.
In today's Gospel, Jesus asks, "Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?"
In our walk with Our Lord, we are called to love others as He loves us.
1. Who in your life is hard to love right now?
2. How can you love them like Christ does this week?