Sunday, September 11, 2011


As we remember the tragedy of September 11, 2001, the readings at today's Eucharist remind us that Jesus calls us to keep on forgiving as we have been forgiven. But we may feel that our hearts are too small, the hurt too big, the horror, the sadness all too much, almost incomprehensible. Forgiving may seem impossible one time let alone the zillions of times Jesus asks of us.

Perhaps our helplessness is the key. We are right; we simply cannot do it on our own. Forgiving seventy times seven times is impossible for us on our own. The invitation is to realize over and over again how powerless we are without Christ Jesus our Lord. We must depend on him. Our hearts are too small, we need his heart, the heart of God. Then the little we bring will become a banquet of forgiveness. Poverty joined to deep faith brings abundance. Mary experienced it, Jesus knew it on the cross. That’s how things work in the Kingdom. Jesus uses what we bring, meager as it is, to make the Kingdom happen; nothing is too little for him to use. He has forgiven and freed me. Finding the treasure means I do as Jesus does, or I try to. I go to him; I hide in him, in his heart.

Forgiving does not mean that nothing has happened, too much has happened to each and everyone one of us. Hidden in Christ, baptized into him, we dare to believe in the possibility of forgiveness. And indeed forgiveness takes time; perhaps it does not happen all at once or once and for all. It may begin with a desire to forgive, or even a desire to desire to forgive. I let myself be forgiven, and I learn to forgive. Forgiving is a work of love that must be rehearsed, repeated, seventy times seven times.

Christ Jesus calls us into the unfathomableness of God’s love for us. Loved so much, forgiven by God so much and so often, we must go and do likewise, consoling with the same consolation we have received, forgiving as best we can or at least beginning to. Forgiveness, even the longing to forgive makes a future of freedom and hope and love possible.

Peace to all men of evil will! Let there be an end to all revenge, to all demands for punishment and retribution. There are already too many martyrs...Lay not their sufferings to the torturers’ charge to exact a terrible reckoning from them, Lord. Instead put down in favor of all men of evil will the courage, humility, dignity, love and spiritual strength of the others. Let it be laid before Thee for the forgiveness of sins. And may we remain in your enemies’ memories not as their victims; not as haunting specters but as helpers...there is nothing more we want for them.

From a note scrawled on a piece of worn paper and tucked between the cracks in two old boards, found in a shed in the concentration camp at Buchenwald.