The name 70×7 is synonymous with God’s eternal forgiveness. Matthew 18:21-22

I have frequently used the old adage “God forgives, people forgive, but nature never forgives!” I came to understand that forgiveness does not obliterate the consequences of the situation that caused the need for forgiveness.

We are often told to “forgive and forget” which might be applicable to a ten-cent problem but rarely to issues with grave and lasting consequences.

I recall an incident that happened at the Team for Justice many years ago. We had developed a program called VOICES. It was a therapeutic intervention for victims and offenders of child sexual abuse. It met every Wednesday night with groups for newcomers, offenders, adults molested as children, parents who failed to protect, and several groups for children and teenagers. We would scatter over the four floors of Old St. Mary’s School in Greektown – a sturdy old McGuyvered building about 100 years old whose only amenity was an elevator.

Wednesdays from around 6:45-7 pm (when the groups began) were almost always disconcerting chaos: probationers and parolees arguing that they were being coerced to be there so why should they pay the fees for service, teenagers balking at having to be there, new clients lost in so many ways, and therapists complaining about paper work and the demands coming from the Human Resource office. I seemed to be the focus of each of these people.

One night, in the midst of this chaos, one of the therapists came out of a session with a pre-trial offender and exclaimed for all to hear: “YOU CATHOLICS! YOU CATHOLICS!” My response was “Kay, I cannot deal with a YOU CATHOLIC problem on a Wednesday night. It will have to wait until tomorrow.” The therapists in the room would not be so deterred and heard the complaint. The woman, who was of the Jewish tradition, explained that the client had told her he no longer needed therapy because he had gone to Confession and his sins were forgiven. And furthermore, he had not molested his daughters after they had received their First Communion.

He does remind me of the billionaire in today’s Gospel who in turn epitomizes Bonhoeffer’s description of cheap grace: forgiveness with repentance, Baptism without discipline, grace without discipleship or the cross, taking without giving.

Nature never forgives. Consequences must be repaired. Grace and mercy received require gratitude and restoration which is furthered blessed when the sinner realizes that God who loves is present in the journey of healing. God is not a punishing parole officer looking to trip up the sinner.

It is in that frame of reference that we have often prayerfully sung “Come Now God of Second Chances.”

We plead…
• that all our sins be healed
• that our angers be pacified and channeled to peaceful energy.

We pray for the openness to seek love over revenge.

We pray that the hurtful emotions and actions in our lives can be let go so that the forgiveness
we have received will empower us to take on the journey of restitution and restoration.



What Does It Mean to Forgive was preached on the 24th Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, in Dominican Chapel at Marywood by Brigid Clingman, OP