Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.
When Peter imagines forgiving another seven times, he alludes to perfection – seven being a biblical symbol of perfection (the Creator rests on the Seventh Day, the Sabbath, and contemplates the goodness of all that exists). Peter, probably, expects that Jesus will affirm his willingness to forgive another seven times, Peter’s perfectly theological allusion.
Jesus’ response calls for the abandonment of calculation altogether – not because he calls us to be super-
All forgiveness is a gift (it is grace) – we love freely because God forgives and loves.
There’s a way to rethink forgiveness in terms broader than the morality of Peter. We may think of living in the Spirit of Love – Karen Armstrong refers to fostering “an attitude of principled, consistent altruism” [Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life]. As much as I desire and seek mutually enriching relationships, I agree with those thinkers (like Armstrong, Kierkegaard and Derrida) who argue for love’s asymmetry – in other words, the truth of a love that gives first. Love doesn’t count the cost, love doesn’t weigh the risk of rejection before committing to another (a parent’s commitment to a child is emblematic); love is unconditional. Love gives first. Love for-
It’s true, then, to say that love is difficult; love hurts, sometimes; love bears the weight of rejection. Thus, the Gospel of a Christ crucified and risen; a God-
Crucially, all this turns on a faithful (a healthy, robust, divinely inspired) notion of love. Often, I confess, I have set out “in love” mostly to impress or manipulate another, or I have been all-
It almost sounds like the Gospel, doesn’t it? Denying oneself for another. Giving until it hurts. Wisdom, however, is about fine distinctions, careful distinctions. I’d suggest that the crucial question, most times, is this: Is it really love? The person of Jesus (as Wisdom incarnate) is key: Reading widely and deeply, we might ask, Is Jesus meek and mild? Is Jesus about denying his own identity and ministry in hope of coercing others? Is Jesus not demanding of others – rich and poor, insiders and outsiders? Is Jesus not critical of systems that belittle and diminish? Is Jesus not angry, sometimes; passionate, courageous, humble, confident, hospitable, self-
One commentator writes of this for-
The parable of Jesus points beyond the inter-
And economic devastation, often accompanied by violence, forces people on the road. Today, some 35 million refugees have been forced to flee their homelands, while as many again are “displaced” in their own lands. We know of the “xenophobic”and “irresponsible/illegal”policies of present and past governments in respect of refugees; “boat people” in particular; and to our shame, distressed children. In such policies and the widespread support of them, we have become a less gracious nation, a more calculating and suspicious people; we have excluded ourselves from a Spirit of Love – the humane and humanising flow of trust, hospitality and good will. Of the 71 countries that take refugees, Australia ranks 38th on a per head basis – behind Kazakhstan, Guinea, Djibouti and Syria. Being a signatory to the UNHCR’s Refugee Convention (1951) commits us, not without risk, to a kind of “for-
If forgiveness is about living in the Spirit of a love that gives first, how are you, in the words of the psalmist,“set free”? For what or for whom are you “set free”?… Amen.