Often this Gospel is used as an occasion to prove the Church's control of the forgiveness of sins and even to demand more frequent confession. The Church, in this perspective, has a monopoly on forgiveness and must be stern in its use. Patently this narrowly circumscribes the passionate forgiveness of God which Jesus came to reveal. God may be generous with forgiveness, it is implied, but the Church cannot and should not.
Yet the story of Thomas, immediately after suggests that such an interpretation of the words of Jesus missed the points. To forgive is not a right to be jealously guarded, but an obligation to be exercised generously. We do not earn our own forgiveness by forgiving others. Rather we manifest the generosity and implacability of God's forgiveness of us.
Fr. Greeley's Last Book:
Once upon a time, a man, attempting a bank robbery, shot and killed a young woman who was a teller. He was a worthless man, a drug addict, an abuser of women, a cruel, vicious, evil gangster. The young woman's family was Catholic. They hated the man. They could hardly wait for the trial. They sat in the courtroom, their eyes filled with hate throughout the trial. When the jury found him guilty they cheer. When the judge sentenced him to death, they yelled with exhaltation and exchanged high fives. They waited impatiently for the day of his execution.
They told the media that they would experience "closure" to the tragedy only when they watched the lethal chemicals flow into his body and his face twist in death agony. They waited years for all the appeals to be exhausted. In prison the man went through a conversion experience and begged for forgiveness. The family refused to grant it. It's a fake they said. He just wants to save his rotten life. He asked for forgiveness from the execution chamber. They spit in his direction. They cheer again when he died.
As they were leaving the prison, the dead woman's sister said to her brother, I don't feel closure, do you? No, he said, I don't either.
Psalm 118:1-4, 13-15, 23-24
1 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his
steadfast love endures for ever!
Catholics and the Struggle with Their Church
The survey of the archdiocese, which Father Greeley describes as "a very complicated place" demographically, asks some difficult questions, and finds some interesting truths.
In Memory of Father Andrew M. Greeley
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