MAY THE WORDS OF MY MOUTH AND THE MEDITATION OF MY HEART BE ALWAYS ACCEPTABLE IN THY SIGHT OH LORD MY STRENGH AND MY REDEEMER.
“While Jesus spake these things unto John’s disciples, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live. And Jesus arose, and followed him, and so did his disciples.”
St. Matthew 9: 18-19
Matthew tells the story of a “certain ruler” who comes to see Jesus to ask him to come “lay thy hand upon” my daughter. This ruler’s name was Jairus and he was the ruler of the synagogue. The ruler of the synagogue was a very important person. He was elected from among the elders. He was not a teaching or a preaching official; he was responsible for ‘The care of the external order in public worship and the supervision of the concerns of the synagogue in general’. He appointed those who were to read and to pray in the service, and invited those who were to preach. It was his duty to see that nothing unfitting took place within the synagogue; and the care of the synagogue buildings was in his oversight. The whole practical administration of the synagogue was in his hands.
It is clear that this man would only come to Jesus as a last resort. He would have been one of the strictly orthodox Jews who regarded Jesus as a dangerous heretic. Remember, Jesus threw over the market place in the synagogue which Jairus was responsible for administering. So there was no love here. It was only when everything else had failed that Jairus turned in desperation to Jesus. Jesus might well have refused to help a man like this saying to him: ‘When things were going well with you, you wanted to kill me; now that things are going badly, you are asking for my help.’ But Jesus bore no grudge; here was a man who needed him, and Jesus’ one desire was to help. Injured pride and the unforgiving spirit had no part in the mind of Jesus.
Some would say that Jesus had every right to bare a grudge against someone who wanted to kill him. Jesus instead shows us his forgiving spirit. When someone sins, they create a debt, and someone must pay it. Most of this debt is owed to God and in his great mercy, he sent his Son to pay that debt on the cross for all who would trust in him. But if someone sinned against you, part of their debt is owed to you and you can take payments on the debt. Typically someone would extract payment by withholding forgiveness, by dwelling on the wrong, by being cold and aloof, by giving up on the relationship, by inflicting emotional pain, by gossiping, by lashing back or by seeking revenge against the person who caused the hurt against them. These actions may provide a perverse pleasure for the moment, but they extract a high price in the long run.
To forgive someone means to release him or her from the liability, the punishment or the penalty you associate with the wrong that has been done to you. This can prove to be very hard for any of us to do. Often we dwell on our feelings or the details of what was done to us.
As I was preparing this homily I read a story about a woman who went to her minister for advice on improving her marriage. When the minister asked her what her greatest complaint was, she replied, “Every time we get into a fight, my husband gets historical.” When the minister said, “You must mean hysterical,” she responded, “I mean exactly what I said; he keeps a mental record of everything I’ve done wrong, and whenever he’s mad, I get a history lesson!”
As someone once said, “Unforgiveness is the poison we drink, hoping others will die.” In his book The Peace Maker Ken Sande suggests that if you struggle with Unforgiveness, ask yourself whether you have ever treated God or others the same way you have been treated by the person you are trying to forgive then make a list of the sins for which God has forgiven you and take a look at the enormous debt for which God has forgiven. We can also look at the example set by our Lord. In Psalm 103:8-11: we are told “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love … He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him.” The point is the more you understand and appreciate the wonders of God’s forgiveness, the more motivation you will have to forgive others. “We are not called to forgive others in order to earn God’s love; rather, having experienced his love, we have the basis and motive to forgive others.” As hard as it is we must learn not to drink the poison of Unforgiveness as both our physical and spiritual health will suffer. Today we know far better than the contemporaries of our Lord that physical health and spiritual health are intimately bound together, and that there is often nothing more healing in its power that the relief and the release that come from a consciousness and acceptance of God’s forgiveness. We must learn to be more like Jesus, instead of being unforgiving to Jairus for his part in wanting to kill him, Jesus showed us his forgiving spirit. Having a forgiving spirit takes real strength, the weak are unforgiving because it is easier. We can get the strength we need from reading and hearing the word of God and trying to live our life the way Jesus lived his, filled with compassion and grace.
And now unto God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost be ascribed all might, majesty, power and dominion as is most justly due this day; world without end. AMEN