God Forgives and Forgets

The Betrayal of Christ - Caravaggio

The Gospel reading for today, Wednesday of Holy Week, is a story of betrayal  (Mt 26:14-15), as was the Gospel for yesterday. Betrayal and denial.  Rejection and abandonment.  (Jn 13:21-33, 36-38).  Each in his own way due to pride – the pride of thinking that we know better than the Lord does and the pride of thinking too highly of ourselves.

In each case, the Lord is willing to forgive.  But we know what happens later.  While the denier subsequently repents and seeks forgiveness, the betrayer, despite his regrets at what has happened, does not return to the Lord and he tragically does not seek Jesus’ mercy and forgiveness.  The repentant denier obtains eternal life, while the unrepentant betrayer kills himself.

In his homily of March 17, 2013, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, observes that sometimes people have difficulty asking for forgiveness.

“It is not easy to entrust oneself to God’s mercy, because it is an abyss beyond our comprehension. But we must!

’Oh, Father, if you knew my life, you would not say that to me!’
’Why, what have you done?’
’Oh, I am a great sinner!’
’All the better! Go to Jesus: he likes you to tell him these things!’

“He forgets, he has a very special capacity for forgetting. He forgets, he kisses you, he embraces you and he simply says to you: ’Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more’ (Jn 8:11). That is the only advice he gives you. After a month, if we are in the same situation … Let us go back to the Lord.

“The Lord never tires of forgiving: never! It is we who tire of asking his forgiveness. Let us ask for the grace not to tire of asking forgiveness, because he never tires of forgiving. Let us ask for this grace.”

The Lord, who makes all things new, is there waiting to forgive, if only we will turn to him with contrition and seek his healing love.  Perhaps now, before we enter into the Paschal Mystery, we might consider seeking that love in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

“Yes, it is possible that everything be made new and different because God continues to be ‘rich in kindness and mercy, always willing to forgive,’ and He encourages us to begin again and again,” then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio wrote in his 2013 Message for Lent.

“Today we are again invited to undertake a paschal journey to Truth, a journey that includes the cross and renunciation, which will be uncomfortable but not sterile. We are invited to admit that something is not right in ourselves, in society and in the Church – to change, to turn around, to be converted. . . .

“Rend your hearts, open your hearts, because only in a broken and open heart can the merciful love of God enter, who loves and heals us.  Rend your hearts says the prophet [Joel], and Paul asks us almost on his knees “be reconciled with God.” To change one’s way of living is the sign and fruit of this broken and reconciled heart by a love that surpasses us.

“This is the invitation, given the many wounds that harm us and that can lead us to the temptation of hardening us: Rend your hearts to experience in silent and serene prayer the gentleness of God’s tenderness.  Rend your hearts to be able to love with the love with which we are loved, to console with the consolation that consoles us and to share what we have received.

“The liturgical time [of Lent] is not only for us, but also for the transformation of our families, our communities, our Church, our homeland, of the whole world. They are forty days to be converted to the very holiness of God; to become collaborators who receive grace and the possibility to reconstruct human life so that every man will experience the salvation that Christ won for us with his Death and Resurrection.”

There is still time to return to the Lord.  If we have denied him, let us seek his forgiveness.  If we have betrayed him, let us repent and be reconciled to him by seeking his pardon.  Our sins, though they be like scarlet, shall be made white as snow by God’s love (Isaiah 1:18).  He never hesitates or tires of forgiving, so let us never hesitate or tire of asking for forgiveness.