Our readings at Mass these past two days have been impressive, one might say. You recall yesterday’s first reading from the prophet Ezechiel in which we heard of the man dressed in linen going about killing and destroying those without the “Thau” mark on their foreheads. Today’s reading from the same prophet describes the inevitable exile God’s people were to experience. Yesterday’s Gospel told us how to reconcile a sinner to the community and today’s Gospel reminds us we must forgive.
What does all of this mean?
One thing we know about God is that He is perfectly pure. He has no mark, no stain, no blemishes. He is without wrinkle or defect. One thing we know about ourselves is that we are created in His image and likeness, and thus, we too are called to be pure as He is pure.
At times, God purifies us. There are times in our lives as individuals when really difficult things happen, when we are faced with great challenge, even persecution. God never wills pain or persecution or exile, but God will use those times that life and the world impose on us as opportunities for us to be purified from whatever may stain us, blemish us, or separate us from Him. God takes what is defective to purify those He loves so as to make them more like Himself, pure and spotless.
As our Gospel today and yesterday have taught, the best way to purification is through forgiveness. If we want to be purfied and increasingly reflect the goodness of God, in Whose image we are made, then we need to ask for forgiveness for ourselves, and we need to offer forgiveness to those who harm us. Not once or twice, but as the Gospel says, seventy-seven times. In other words, as often as we can.
Can you imagine St. Maximillan Kolbe? In a concentration camp in 1941, about to be executed. I have no doubt that at that moment, he asked God for forgiveness. I have no doubt that at that moment, he forgave those who were about to kill him.
He was purified.