Blue spring flowers on the Cathedral grounds

Mark 11:15-33

Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He was teaching and saying, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city. In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. Then Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” Again they came to Jerusalem. As he was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to him and said, “By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?” Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin? Answer me.” They argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘Of human origin’?”– they were afraid of the crowd, for all regarded John as truly a prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

“Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”

The action moves quickly in this passage from Mark – from the “cleansing of the temple” to the “sayings on prayer” to the “challenge to Jesus’ authority.” Today, I draw our attention to verse 25 that speaks directly to forgiveness. The words should sound very familiar to us as they echo the Lord’s Prayer…“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

During Lent, our time of self-reflection may well call us to seek or to offer forgiveness. We know that forgiveness is essential to our own healing and wholeness, but it is incredibly difficult to do at times. Some of our woundedness and the related forgiveness take a long time and a whole lot of prayer.

In their book on forgiveness, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter Mpho poignantly note that, “Forgiveness is the only way to heal ourselves and to be free from the past…without forgiveness, we remain tethered to the person who harmed us. We are bound to the chains of bitterness, tied together, trapped. Until we can forgive the person who harmed us, that person will hold the keys to our happiness, that person will be our jailor. When we forgive, we take back control of our own fate and our feelings. We become our own liberator.”

If you are holding on to unforgiveness, including for yourself, pray that God will help you to let it go. If you have wounded someone, pray that God will help you to take the steps necessary for reconciliation and forgiveness. Jesus showed us the way.

Blessings and in faith,

God of infinite mercy, grant that we who know your pity may rejoice in your forgiveness and gladly forgive others for the sake of Jesus Christ our Savior. (A New Zealand Prayer Book, page 576)