I had the Rite of Penance open the other day, and this passage was at the top of the page:
Jesus said to his disciples,
“Things that cause sin will inevitably occur,
but woe to the person through whom they occur.
It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck
and he be thrown into the sea
than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.
Be on your guard!
If your brother sins, rebuke him;
and if he repents, forgive him.
And if he wrongs you seven times in one day
and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’
you should forgive him.”
Difficult. One of the most difficult passages in the Bible. We are cheering for a sinner to be cast into the ocean depths one verse, and the next verse we are asked to forgive. And if we ever hear, “I am sorry,” we are called to respond favorably multiple times in a day.
Does the line, “with God all things are possible” spring to mind?
Jesus tells us sin is inevitable. And harm is unavoidable. And a broken relationship with God and others something of the very substance of our existence. We can’t avoid it. How can we hope to try to do so?
One of my biggest fears as a parent was to mess up my child’s life by some stupid, soul-shaking outburst. So far, I’ve avoided it. I hope. (No comment on embarrassment passed on to a teenager, though.) I’m always struck by the awesome responsibility I have as a parent. And more, when parishioners entrust their young daughters and sons to me.
One thing I’ve not tried to shy away from, and a break hopefully from my parents, is to accustom myself to apologizing to my daughter. I suspect there are some in the spare-the-rod crowd–my parents in their heyday included–who will be shocked. But one good benefit I see is that my daughter is now herself accustomed to apologizing, unprompted, for some of the smallest little things. That little flare of teen anger/angst, and not five minutes later a small, sincere apology. Of course I will accept that. I asked my wife a year or so ago, was that really our daughter? And we shared that moment that seems to come all too infrequently, I think we’ve done alright on that.
I have to reflect on my internet relationships, especially. I offer quite a bit of rebuke. I don’t think I succeed very much at the forgiveness angle. Shouldn’t I be doing that even without, “I’m sorry”? Isn’t that what Jesus modeled by his very life–not only his preaching? And isn’t this the essence of the cross? That Jesus indeed forgives them all. Us all.