Sacraments of Reconciliation
Part 8 Exploring Forgiveness

Chapter r83 Divine Forgiveness

Preliminary Questions

Bibliography

Old Testament

New Testament

Other Religions

Divine Forgiveness

Celebrating Forgiveness Liturgically

To Think About

Preliminary Questions

There is an old rabbinic story that says that following the passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea and the drowning of their pursuing Egyptian troops, Miriam led them in singing and rejoicing: "They sang thus because Pharaoh's horses and chariots and charioteers had gone into the sea, and the LORD made the waters of the sea flow back upon them, though the Israelites had marched on dry land through the midst of the sea. The prophetess Miriam, Aaron's sister, took a tambourine in her hand, while all the women went out after her with tambourines, dancing; and she led them in the refrain: Sing to the LORD, for he is gloriously triumphant; horse and chariot he has cast into the sea." (Exodus 15:19-21 NAB)  The rabbinic story continues:  The angels in heaven saw the Israelites singing and dancing and they decided to have a party also, and the angels began to sing and dance up in heaven. God heard all the commotion and came to see what was going on; and when God saw the angels rejoicing, He told them to stop and said: "Do you not see the Egyptians dying in the sea? They are my children also. We shall sing and rejoice when all my children are safe."

 

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Bibliography

 

 

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Old Testament

Assignment # 0  Examine your favorite Old Testament passages which speak of divine forgiveness.  Write a 400-600 word essay on divine forgiveness in the Old Testament. (Value:  5% of course grade)

Genesis 2:4b-24  
The LORD God said to the serpent,
"Because you have done this, / cursed are you among all animals ...
To the woman he said, / "I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing;  / in pain you shall bring forth children, / yet your desire shall be for your husband, / and he shall rule over you."
And to the man he said, / "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, ... / cursed is the ground because of you; / in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; ... / By the sweat of your face  / you shall eat bread / until you return to the ground,  / for out of it you were taken; / you are dust, / and to dust you shall return."

 

2 Samuel 11   One evening David rose from his siesta and strolled about on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing, who was very beautiful. David had inquiries made about the woman and was told, "She is Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam, and wife of Uriah the Hittite." Then David sent messengers and took her. When she came to him, he had relations with her ...

Forgiveness does not remove the consequences of the action.  Even when David is forgiven, the consequences of his act remain.    

 

Psalm 51
1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.

Sirach 27:30-28:7    (Translation from the Lectionary 24th Sunday, Cycle A)
Wrath and anger are hateful things,
yet the sinner hugs them tight.
The vengeful will suffer the Lord's vengeance,
for he remembers their sins in detail.
Forgive your neighbor's injustice;
then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.

Could anyone nourish anger against another
and expect healing from the Lord?
Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself,
can he seek pardon for his own sins?
If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath,
who will forgive his sins?
Remember your last days, set enmity aside;
remember death and decay, and cease from sin!
Think of the commandments,
hate not your neighbor,
remember the Most High's covenant,
and overlook faults.

Tentative Conclusions

1.  "The God of the Hebrew Scriptures is "a God who feels disappointment in the poor choices people make, but also a God who longs for His people to repent and return to Him.”   I think this is indeed the God of Scriptures.  I find this God hard to reconcile with the God I learned about in the Catechism who never changes, and is always perfectly happy, never changing, never feeling, never disappointed.

 

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New Testament

Assignment # 0  Examine your favorite New Testament passages which speak of divine forgiveness.  Write a 400-600 word essay on divine forgiveness in the New Testament. (Value:  5% of course grade)

 

Gospel according to Mark

 

Gospel according to Matthew

Matthew 5:23-24 NAB   “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

Matthew 18:15-17 NRSV "If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Matthew 18:21-22 NRSV "Then Peter came and said to him, "Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times."

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:23-35) "For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him ..."

In his commentary on this passage, Donald Senior points out that 10,000 was the highest number the Hebrews had.  10,000 talents = the amount of the national debt.   A hundred denarii = a few days wages.

Gospel according to Luke

The Prodigal Son and His Brother  Luke 15:11 ff

"Father, forgive them ..."  Luke 23:34    (Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.") They divided his garments by casting lots. NAB footnote: [Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."]: this portion of Luke 23:34 does not occur in the oldest papyrus manuscripts of Luke and in other early Greek manuscripts and ancient versions of wide geographical distribution.

Gospel according to John

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Other Religions

Islam   First among the Ninety-nine Beautiful Names of God in Islam are "The Merciful [ir-rahamani], The Compassionate [ir-rahim]."   The Holy Qur'ân opens with the words:

In the name of God the Compassionate the Caring
Praise be to God, Lord, Sustainer of the worlds,
the Compassionate, the Caring ...

The Arabic words "rahman" and "rahim," translated "Most Gracious/Most Compassionate" and "Most Merciful/Caring" are both intensive forms referring to different aspects of Allah's attribute of Mercy. The Arabic intensive more suited to more suited to express Allah's  attributes than the superlative degree in English. The latter implies a comparison with other beings, or with other times or places, while there is no being like unto Allah, and He is independent of Time and Place.  Mercy may imply pity, long-suffering, patience, and forgiveness, all of which the sinner needs and Allah Most Merciful bestows in abundant measure.  But there is a Mercy that goes before even the need arises, the Grace which is ever watchful, and flows from Allah Most Gracious to all His creatures, protecting them, preserving them, guiding them, and leading them to clearer light and higher life.  For this reason the attribute Rahman (most Gracious) is not applied to any but Allah, but the attribute Rahim (Merciful), is a general term that may also be applied to Men. To make us contemplate these bondless gifts of Allah, the formula: "In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful": is placed before every Sûrah of the Qur'ân and repeated at the beginning of every act by the Muslim who dedicates his life to Allah and who hopes in His Mercy.  (Abdullah Yusuf 'Ali, The Meaning of the Holy Qur'an, p 14)

Also, among the Ninety-nine Beautiful Names, the Holy Qur'an names God:  The Oft-Forgiving, The Clement, The Remitter, The Bounteous, The Benevolent, The Restorer, The Accepter of Repentance, The Oft-Pardoning, The Most Kind, The All-Wise, and The Infinitely Patient.

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Divine Forgiveness

Tentative Conclusions

1.  When God punishes, it is medicinal -- i.e. to help the sinner repent.  But if God knows the everything -- including the future -- doesn't God know whether the sinner will repent or not?   Or is there a sense in which God does not know the future? 

2.  Does God change?  -- If we repent, does this "change" God?  If God has already forgiven us, what need is there to repent?

 

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Celebrating Forgiveness Liturgically

 

 

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To Think About

1.  "Forgiveness is impossible without Grace."  If the Is grace always given, then the statement is meaningless; if it is not always given, why would God not give it?

2.  "Forgiveness is more for the injured party than for the offender." Is God injured when we sin? When God forgives, does God benefit?

3.  How can the Gospel help a person come to forgiveness and even reconciliation?

 

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Copyright: Tom Richstatter.  All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 03/20/15 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at trichstatter@franciscan.org