Saturday, April 17, 2010

Forgiveness (18 April 2010, 3rd Sunday Easter)

This is my Sunday homily for 18 April 2010, 2nd Sunday of Easter for FDU Fairleigh Dickinson University, Teaneck, Newman Catholic Association (Teaneck, NJ). Mass is Sunday 7:30 p.m. during Fall + Spring Semester at FDU Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck. To view the readings, go to and click “April 18” in the calendar.

[__01.] Appearing visually, Jesus shows up unannounced at the lakeshore.

Does Peter see him coming? Does Peter see the forgiveness and mercy of Christ coming from off in the distance, after Jesus has visually appeared?

Peter does not always see things coming. This happened before.

[__02.] After being asked who do you say that I am [by Jesus], Peter proudly responds, You are the Messiah (Mark 8:28). But, then, Peter does not see the next part of coming in which Jesus defines the Messiah as the Son the Man who ….

…. the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. (Mark 8:29-33)

Then, Jesus respond saying, this is just the way it is, or in the words of the Gospel:

"Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do." (Mark 8:29-33)

Peter did not see that coming.

Peter does not want the Passion and and Death. And, we might even think of this as Peter’s first denial.

Then, later, Jesus reminds Peter that the hour has come for the Passion.

And, Peter says. Well, Lord, if you are going to be arrested and crucified … well, me, too. I want to get on board that same train.

Peter said [to Jesus], "Master, why can't I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for me? Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times." (John 13:37-38)

Then, Jesus predicts… Peter before the cock crows twice thou shalt deny me thrice.

[__03.] this leads to this Gospel conversation – or we might say “confrontation.” Peter who had denied Jesus 3x is now asked do you love me 3x.

Peter, do you love me?

But, this is not the mere settling of a score.

Forgiveness is not about keeping scores or settling scores.

[__04.] Forgiveness is about a new vision for Peter who has had his blind spots. As we all do.

Jesus is not interested in getting back at Peter as his former associate. Rather, Jesus is simply asking Peter, do you love me?

And, this is the same question the one we are called to ask in any experience of forgiveness whether we are seeking forgiveness or granting forgiveness.

Where is the love? Where is the charity?

For example, if someone asks us for forgiveness, we have to ask that question.

Or, in the other – perhaps more frequent case – we have to ask the question we are harboring some bitterness, feeling hurt ..and we are not publicly sought out for our benevolence and mercy.

In this case, the person who has wronged me may be unaware, unable, or unwilling to ask my forgiveness.

Nevertheless, I can freely give it or not. And, I am called to ask the same question – love. Where is the love? Charity?

How can I love this person?.

And, not just one time, not just 3 times, not even just 7 times.

Recall what Peter himself had asked Jesus earlier in the Gospel:

“Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him, as many as seven times?” (Matthew 18:21)

And, Jesus answered, “Not seven times, but seventy seven times.” (Matthew 18:22)

This is the question and answer that Peter does not see coming. That Peter is called to forgive many times.

[__05.] And, if we are going to seek forgiveness – and grant forgiveness – we are called to do the same arithmetic, the same math ..which invites to the remember that forgiveness is not about the infinite love of God, the limitless of Christ which we are trying to imitate..

It means even loving those who do not love us in return.

As Jesus says, “for if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same?”

Not like tax collectors. And, no one wants to be a tax collector on or about April 15th.

In forgiveness, we express love and hope for everyone.

Love leads to forgiveness. But, it may be a difficult “audit” or “investigation” as it is sometimes hard to find the good in the other person. But, in searching for the good, we are also seeking the Godliness, the image of Christ in the other, the love in the other person and in ourselves.

[__06.] Jesus does not show up asking Peter the questionss he might have seen coming. Such as the three questions:

(one) Peter, what you are your sins?
(two) Peter, where were you on the night before Good Friday?
(three) Peter, what did you say about me or not say about me?

These are not the questions.

Rather, Jesus asks Peter the question he does not see coming. That is, “Do you love me?”

And, it’s the same question we are called to ask whether we are seeking forgiveness or granting forgiveness.

If we trust in the love of God and the love between our neighbor and ourselves, then we will ask this question about love and we will see coming -- greater peace and mercy -- through Christ our Risen Lord. [__end__.]

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