Bishop Noonan reflects on forgiveness

My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

God’s mercy is infinite, but we are in charge of how much mercy we receive.   The Old Testament speaks to encouragement of forgiveness and mercy. In His fulfillment of the Old Testament, Jesus shows us that God requires it. I quote for this column, a few lines of the Book of Sirach which you will heard proclaimed during Mass on Sunday, September 17. Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord?

Forgiveness does not mean the restoration of the past, because you cannot undo what has already been done. But forgiveness takes us out of ourselves and allows the offering of Christ’s Peace to be the air we breathe. Forgiving may seem a powerful tool over which to master someone. Christ’s Peace is not a threat to be made. It is a true offering of one’s self to another to hold each other in God’s love; to bring forth His goodness upon the land. It is the essence of recognizing the sacredness of each person and the frailty of our own person.

Forgiveness begins with our own individual relationships; within our family and the family which extends beyond-as God calls us to a family of community; country; world. Look upon your own family and determine where you might carry forgiveness; where you might stretch out your hand to clasp another’s. Don’t let a squabble between mother or father, brother or sister, friend or co-worker prevent you from realizing God’s mercy. If you withhold forgiveness, you will not understand God’s mercy upon you.

Pope Francis said that families are always journeying and already continually writing the beauty of the Gospel of the family on the pages of real life. “In a world which is sometimes barren of life and love, you speak each day of the great gifts that marriage and family are…The family is a great training ground for the mutual giving and forgiving without which no love can last for long.” He emphasized, “One cannot live without seeking forgiveness, or at least, one cannot live at peace, especially in the family. We wrong one another every day. We must take into account these mistakes, due to our frailty and our selfishness. However, what we are asked to do is to promptly heal the wounds that we cause, to immediately reweave the bonds that break within the family.”

Recently, the bishops spoke against President Trump’s action to end DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and urged Congress to act and immediately resume work toward a legislative solution. The bishops pledged our support to work on finding an expeditious means of protecting these vulnerable youth. It is because of our belief in the preservation of family that we voice our dismay in President Trump’s action. We are called to immediately reweave the bonds which break within the family; in this case, the family of our nation. These youth entered the U.S. as minors and this has become their only home; we their only family. As members of Christ’s body, we have long watched with pride and admiration as these youth live out their daily lives with hope and a determination to flourish and contribute to society: continuing to work and provide for their families, continuing to serve in the military, and continuing to receive an education. Now, after months of anxiety and fear about their futures, these brave young people face deportation. This decision is unacceptable and does not reflect our Catholic faith. Our nation has done the opposite of how Scripture calls us to respond. The actions of President Trump show the absence of mercy and good will, and a short-sighted vision for the future.

Look at our world and all the headlines of destruction through which we have participated. Recently, we have experienced hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes, natural occurrences of the earth. How might we flourish the Spirit of God among his people with our actions as we experience these difficulties? These natural occurrences may have caused us to look into ourselves and realize our own frailty and the gift of forgiveness.   We have seen many turn to prayer; we have seen the beauty of assistance; we have seen the blessing of God’s mercy brought forth through each one as others have experienced loss and suffering.

In the midst of human difficulty, we are the outstretched arm of God’s mercy. The holiness of this extraordinary love is offered through us as we are granted God’s mercy in our participation in the Sacraments, particularly Penance and the Eucharist. After we receive and are nourished at the table of the Lord, we are called as His disciples to go forth and bring forgiveness to our brothers and sisters. If we cultivate forgiveness, we will find an infinite store waiting for us when we meet God. For, could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the LORD?

Bishop Noonan
Diocese of Orlando