This year, 2017, is the sixteenth year anniversary of the terrorist attack on New York’s World Trade Center. While it is not a fond memory we all can probably remember something significant such as where and what we were doing when we heard the news. This event has become part of our life and year after year we remember in a special way those who became victims of this attack.
Just like most of us Cheryl and Tom McGuiness started their day as usual. She kissed Tom good bye that morning and went on with her day as usual. She did not think that day she would be their last kiss.
Tom was the Pilot of American Airlines Flight 11, which was hijacked and smashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Later that day an official from the airline came to deliver the sad news to Cheryl and the two teenage children. They were shocked and grieved this sudden lost of Tom severely. In the midst of her tears, she remembered something that her husband, knowing that a pilot’s job is risky, had told her long before: He had said to Cheryl “If anything ever happens to me, you have to trust God. God will get you through it” So she took these words to heart, but it wasn’t easy. She struggled so much with grief and forgiving those who were responsible of the attack for an year or so.
The turning point in the process of this grief and struggle to forgive came almost a year after the attack, when she went to Ground Zero. When she arrived to Ground Zero, Cheryl was emotionally stunned, she looked into the pit where the buildings had once stood. As she looked at the remains, her eyes fixed on the only steel structure left standing. And she noticed that It was in the shape of a cross. She kept looking into the pit at the cross having her eyes focused on the cross and then she prayed in the silence of her heart, “Lord, they killed my husband.”
At this particular moment she pictured herself at the foot of another Cross, the Christ’s cross, at Calvary. As she was looking at the beaten body of Christ, She heard God in her heart, inviting her to forgive those who committed this crime. She asked Him “why; why on earth would I forgive someone who killed my husband and made me a widow and left my children fatherless ?” The answer that came into her heart in a soft voice, God said, “because I forgave you.” At this point Cheryl is probably thinking to her self what you mean by “I forgave you?” I have not killed any one.
But this moment at the foot of the cross for Cheryl was a moment of Grace and of spiritual clarity, in which she saw that although she had never committed horrible acts of terrorism, she had indeed committed sins. There might have been times she was angry with her husband for not probably paying enough attention to her, or not putting the dishes in the dishwasher. There might have been times that she had been angry at the person who cut her off at the parking lot or in the highway. She might have had hard time letting go of people who hurt her feelings, and yet Jesus had forgiven her.
It was Jesus who was hanging on that Cross all beaten up, with his arms stretched out wide, said to his father in heaven “forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” He took those last moments of his life on the cross to forgive those who tortured him and those who mocked him.
In Christ, God offers us forgiveness for a debt we could not have ever paid the debt of sin, both original and the petty sins we do. Every time when we look at this cross and see this crucified Christ hanging on the cross, it is a reminder for us, of God’s mercy. Through Chris all of our debts were pardoned.
Even when he clearly knows that we will fall short gain and again he continues to forgive us.
Jesus himself is the Master who forgives the huge amount. If a Master can forgive a servant, a slave, how many times would Christ forgive us who have become his brothers and sisters through the baptism? With Jesus, there is no end to the amount of second chances we can have. The clearest proof of this is the unthinkable gift of the sacrament of confession.
God is always, always, willing to forgive: there is no limit to his mercy. But we can cut ourselves off from that ever-flowing mercy, and that’s what Jesus is warning us about in todays Gospel Parable. When we act like the unforgiving servant and refuse to forgive the offenses of others, we handcuff God’s mercy and put ourselves under strict justice. Earlier in St. Matthew’s Gospel, Christ pointed out that “For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. (Matthew 7:2). In todays Gospel the servant who was pardoned by his master had a choice. He could have chosen to pardon the debt of his fellow servant as his master pardoned his great debt. Yet the first servant choose not to pardon his fellow servant, which led his master to judge him according to the same standards he held his fellow servant. This is the way God has found to unfurl his mercy without compromising his justice; he leaves each person free to choose between the two, between justice and mercy. If we demand strict justice from others who offend us, we force God to demand strict justice from us, we cut ourselves off from the divine mercy like the servant in the parable.
God doesn’t ask us to forgive on our own strength, but he gives us the strength to forgive by forgiving us first: that’s the secret to learning Christian mercy. Cheryl first understood the simple ways God has been forgiving to her in her life, gave her the strength to even to forgive those who killed her husband.
So what one practical thing can we do this week?
May be we can make a resolution to go to sacrament of reconciliation at least once within the next week or within this month, so we can experience the flood of God’s mercy.
Or we can think of one grudge, one debt of someone we have not been able to pardon in our life and ask God’s grace for us to be able to pardon that old debt.
Well, sisters and brothers let’s spread God’s mercy which we have received from God others.