Friday, September 13, 2013

Theology on Tap at Blessed Sacrament:
Father Hurd and Forgiveness

With the anniversary of September 11 still fresh in our minds, and as we learn more about horrors and evils like chemical warfare, the question arises of what to do about such things? One response is to retaliate, to take "punitive action" against the wrongdoers. Another response is far more radical and one that is often as misunderstood as it is avoided - forgiveness. Forgive? Forgive that?? For many the very idea of forgiving is to provoke outrage and the objection "what about justice???"

The idea of forgiveness, especially the forgiveness that our infinitely merciful Lord offers us, has been a big theme for Pope Francis, and it is one that our world greatly needs at this time.

The urge is great that if you injured me, then I'll make you sorry for it and injure you back and call that justice. Of course, when we hit back, then they might say the same thing and hit us back in return, and the cycle of violence and hate goes on and on. Or maybe we don't counterattack, but simply hold grudges and nurse the resentments, saying to ourselves that what was done is "unforgiveable." All the while, thinking that we are somehow getting back at the wrongdoer by being resentful, we are actually allowing all of that anger and bile to destroy us from within.

This week on Theology on Tap we have Father Scott Hurd on "Forgiving Others: A Catholic Approach," which is both the title of his talk and his recent book. Please click on the link to this mp3 podcast or right click to save it to listen later. A native of Alexandria, together with his family, Father Hurd is a member of the parish of Blessed Sacrament, but a priest for the Archdiocese of Washington. He also serves as Vicar General of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter, having previously been an Episcopal priest who in 1996 entered the Catholic Church. In 2000, Father Hurd was ordained a Catholic priest under the Pastoral Provision, which permits married former Anglican clergy to be ordained Catholic priests.

"The forgiveness we are called to offer is a decision, a process and a gift. It’s a decision because by forgiveness we choose to let go of any desire for revenge or retaliation, and we free ourselves of the bitterness and resentment that harden our hearts," says Father Hurd. "Forgiveness is a process because letting go of resentment takes time; we may need to make the decision to forgive over and over again! Finally, forgiveness is a gift of love that we give freely, without expectations, exceptions or limits. It is neither earned nor deserved. When we love the ones we forgive, we wish them happiness, not harm; well, not woe; heaven, not hell."

Note what Father Hurd says here: not "when we forgive the ones we love," but "when we love the ones we forgive." Jesus calls us to forgive and forgive and forgive -- forgive even the people we don't like, even those who have done us great harm, just as we ask Jesus in all humility to forgive us for all the bad and harmful and, yes, evil things we have done. The evil that has been done to us or by us is done and cannot be undone, but if prospective danger and evil remain, we can rightly take steps to prevent it. Forgiveness does not preclude justice, but tempers it with mercy and prevents the perpetuation of the evil, all while remembering that Jesus took all that justice upon Himself on the Cross, transforming death to new life.

No comments: