“So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mt. 5:23-24).
While delivering his “Farewell Sermon,” a retiring pastor recited those two verses from the Sermon on the Mount. Then, after a long pause, he said, In my preaching ministry of almost fifty years, I have made it a point to use this text in a sermon at least once a year. And not once have I seen or heard of a person leaving the Church to “first be reconciled to his or her brother or sister” as Jesus commands. It’s almost as though we think God made a grave mistake when He identified “forgiveness” as the essence of His Rule over us.
Jesus said to His disciples: “… whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mk. 11:25-26). Did God make a mistake here?
Jesus said to His disciples: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust” (Mt. 5:44-45). Did God make a mistake here?
The bottom line for all of us is, do we want to position ourselves under the Rule of God, or do we want to come under our own rule? Are we ready to accept as King the Crucified Christ whose only reply from the Cross was “Father, forgive them,” or are we prepared to crucify Him?
We know, of course, that Christ was crucified between two thieves. “One of the criminals,” Luke tells us, “railed at Him, saying, ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds, but this Man has done nothing wrong.’ And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into Your Kingdom.’ And Jesus replied,
‘Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise'” (Lk. 23:39-43).
Copernicus, the great mathematician of antiquity, revolutionized the thoughts of humanity about the Universe. When he lay dying, his book, which had just been printed, “The Revolution of the Heavenly Bodies,” was put in his arms. At that moment, this man of superior intellect saw himself not as an eminent scholar or a great astronomer, but only as a lowly sinner. And on his grave at Frombork, one can read these words: “I do not seek a kindness equal to that given Paul, nor do I ask the Grace granted Peter. But that forgiveness which Thou didst grant the robber — that I earnestly desire.”
Christ, our King earnestly desires that we forgive one another — even our enemies, so that we may fulfill the necessary precondition for entry into His Kingdom of Love! For a thousand years, and after that, to the end of the world, may the inscription commemorating our lives reflect His desire. It comes down to a matter of trust. Christ, our King, is asking us to trust Him when He tells us that to become the uniquely beautiful, fulfilled persons He wants us to become, we must learn to forgive and to forgive, unconditionally.
For Christians, forgiveness is the indelible mark that is inscribed on our souls for a thousand-thousand years, and after that, to the end of the world!
So, we pray: O Lord, forgive us as we forgive others… Amen.
Grace and Peace