“Forgive and Forget” No, not really.
The Resurrection stories in the Gospels are a little odd – not quite as straightforward as the rest of the Gospels usually are. To appreciate them, we need to put ourselves in the story even more than usual. For example, in next Sunday’s Gospel Jesus ‘confronts’ Peter about his three betrayals during his Passion. Peter’s denials were tragic. In a teen movie terms: ‘BFF denies knowing you to people who aren’t important, not once but three times! The friendship was DEAD’. In Jewish terms, three times met the decision was irrevocable.
But this is the Christian story. Jesus returns risen, feeds the disciples on the beach with a cooked breakfast on the beach. All is forgiven, yes…but not forgotten. Peter isn’t let off that easy. Jesus confronts him but not in the way we would. He doesn’t go back over the details of the betrayal but cuts right to the heart. He asks Peter three times, three times, if he loves him. Peter can barely get the words out saying that he does. Why? Because he knows that his actions have said exactly the opposite. Each question cuts deeper into Peter, uncovering the mess and, dare we say, meanness of his heart. By the time Jesus asks the last question, ‘Do you really love me?’ Peter is laid bare, ‘Lord, you know all things, you know I love you.’ Peter cannot trust himself but throws himself on Jesus’ knowledge of himself. He can’t reverse his actions – but Jesus can.
I think the saying, ‘Forgive and forget’ is silly. ‘Forgive, learn and move on’ is much better. Too often, in the process of forgiveness, we go over the ‘offending actions’ and only open the wounds even deeper. What we need is the wisdom that Jesus showed: a sifting of the heart to find the roots of the wrongdoing and to discover that love, true love, is even deeper. Betrayal and hurt then becomes stages of growth in our love for each other.
Loving Father, you know how we hurt each other, sometimes very badly. Give us the wisdom of your Spirit that we make sift through the hurt and pain, and find underneath it all real love. Let Jesus’ forgiveness of each of us guide us through the mess. We ask this in his name confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb