Deacon Steven Johnson’s Reflection
Reflection for the 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Thursday, 8-11-22, Year C
Readings: Ez 12:1-12; Ps 78:58-57, 58-59, 61-62; Gospel Mt 18:21-19:1
Memorial: St. Clare – Virgin
Theme: “To Err is Human, To Forgive Divine”
“To err is human, to forgive divine,” Alexander Pope, English poet, from his poem, “An Essay on Criticism,” Part II, in the year 1711. “Pope explains that, while anyone can make a mistake, we should aspire to do as God does, that is, show mercy and forgiveness:” 1
In today’s readings we hear about the errors of our ways either against each other or God Himself. We know that we are not perfect, making mistakes, hurting our neighbors, or being our own judge over the judgement of God. We have the propensity to sin, and all of us do it to some degree or another. It would seem at times that we are caught up in a never-ending cycle of sin with no way out.
The good news is, that in God’s infinite love for us, there is always forgiveness and mercy. The key is whether we recognize our sin and accept His forgiveness and mercy and change our ways, or ignore it, continuing on a path of destruction. As with the Israelites of Ezekiel’s time (during the exile in Babylon, circa 597 B.C.) who were banished from their homeland to Babylon because of their rebellion against God, God would eventually forgive them and bring them back to their homeland some 50 or so years later. But, before that happens, God, through Ezekiel, needed to make sure that the Israelites understand the immensity of their sin by destroying Jerusalem ten years later in 587 B.C.
The Israelites eventually recanted of their ways and came back to God and asked for forgiveness, recognizing their sinful past and putting it behind them, once more following God and His commandments. They would be forgiven and return to their homeland to start anew.
In a similar way, we see Peter’s question to Jesus of how many times must we forgive our neighbor. Peter asks, “seven times?” Jesus replies, “not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” In biblical language the number seven represent, in a way, an emphasis of perfection. By Christ making it seventy-seven times, He is basically saying we must infinitely forgive our neighbor as many times as they sin against us, just like God has done for all of humanity throughout the ages.
Forgiveness can come in many different forms. One of them is through charitable works toward our neighbors. St. Clare was one of the wise virgins who prayed for forgiveness in continuous cloistered prayer for all people. Not only did she pray, but she did works of corporal mercy and charity to any who asked. Following St. Francis of Assisi, in a life of poverty, St. Clare formed an order of nuns which she became the foundress. They are known today as the “Poor Clares.” She died in the Lord’s grace in 1253 A.D.
For many of us it is easy to err against our neighbor and to look for forgiveness from them, yet we can find it hard to forgive those who err against us and even more so, to forget about it. In times like these, look to Jesus and His teaching on forgiveness, because, truly, to forgive IS divine.
1 – from Phrases.org.uk