Once upon a time my Dad did something really stupid. My Mom chewed him out; he apologized, they made up. From time to time my mom mentions what he did. "Honey," my Dad finally said one day, "why do you keep bringing that up? I thought your policy was 'forgive and forget.'"
"It is," she said. "I just don't want you to forget that I've forgiven and forgotten."
Thank goodness God’s love goes beyond human love. Micah 7 tells us He does not retain his anger because he delights in forgiveness. He will have compassion on us and tread our iniquities under foot. He will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.
We know this because God became one of us.
St Damien worked in a leper colony and had the habit of addressing the lepers Sunday morning in these words: “You lepers know that God the Father loves you.” And then he would go on with his sermon. But one morning he began, “We lepers know that God loves us.” He was one of them. Imagine the impact of his words after that.
Danish sculptor Thorvaldsen created a clay model of Christ the King, strong and triumphant. But during the night fog and sea-spray seeped through an open window and affected the model. In the morning Thorvaldsen found a figure with head and arms drooping, but the face had been transformed from severity to compassion. After reflecting on the turn of events, underneath the statue he wrote: “Come unto Me.”
We know that when it comes to forgiveness Christ practised what he preached. He healed the sinners and forgave them. He forgave his executioners. He forgave the thief on the cross beside him. He taught us how to be mindful each day of forgiveness when we say, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…”
A fourteenth-century mystic scrawled these word s in the margin of a manuscript he was copying: He abides patiently, he understands mercifully, he forgives easily, he forgets utterly.
What freedom we can experience if we understand God’s forgiving nature. How free we can be to move and love in our families and faith communities and in the world.
God’s forgiveness knows no bounds, if we but ask. The story is told of Judgement Day and how everyone is celebrating at the huge banquet. But Jesus is standing alone, waiting in the shadow of the gates of paradise. When asked what he is doing there, he says, “I am waiting for Judas.”
Will Judas accept or reject that freedom? Will that bit of Judas in you and me accept that freedom? Accept that love.