Christian forgiveness has no strings attached

BRIDGEPORT—Most of us find it difficult to forgive friends and family who may have betrayed us, but Jesus urges us toward complete forgiveness, said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano in his homily during his online Mass for 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

“Many of us who struggle with this demand find it difficult to summon the energy and grace to forgive. We can forgive to a point— but with strings attached,” said the bishop from the Catholic Center chapel.

The bishop said it is a very human reaction to want to protect ourselves from further hurt, but the challenge presented by the gospel is that ““True Christian forgiveness does not have strings attached.”

The bishop’s homily was based on the Gospel of Matthew 18:21-35. “ 21 Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”

The bishop said Peter probably thought he had done well with his generous figure, but that Jesus goes beyond that exponentially.

“The Call of the Gospel is to be wildly generous, to know no limits or bounds. We are as children to follow the example of the Father in heaven who does the same for you and me and all of us,” the bishop said.

“He remembers every sin but gives us a chance to re-build ourselves without strings attached. He does so by generously, wildly maybe even recklessly loving us.”

The bishop said that one of the most poignant conversations he ever had took place when he began his first parish assignment at St. Jude Parish in Canarsie after returning from studies in Rome.

A woman came to him broken and distressed because she had been deeply betrayed by family and friends.

The bishop recalled “the honest human struggle this woman had to trying to do what the Lord asked… forgive those who had hurt and betrayed her so deeply.”

In the midst of her tears and resignation, she said to him in a whisper, “Fr. Frank, I will do my best to forgive, but I’m not sure I can forget.”

“Forgiveness is not an emotional response,” said the bishop. “It is an act of the will, a choice you make to give someone a new beginning, another chance.”

Forgiveness doesn’t condone what happened or excuse the hurt or sin committed, but it offers the other a fresh start if people are willing to change their lives, he said.

“God is always ready to forgive us, so who are we not to give it to our neighbors and friends and those who have hurt us?” he asked.

The bishop said that people feel the relief of no longer carrying the burden when they are forgiven, but the choice to forgive “is ours to make.”

“The challenge as we go through the coming week is that there are people in your life and mine where we have forgiven but not forgotten—forgiven but held on to the strings just in case,” he said.

“The lord asks us to forgive from the heart. For if He, the father, is willing to forgive us from his divine heart, shouldn’t we do the same for our neighbor?”
In brief remarks following Mass, Bishop Caggiano urged Catholics throughout the diocese to join in the “conversation about the conversation on race” that will be held online this Thursday.

“The diocese has been engaged in online conversations about the presence of racism in our midst, and the evil and sinfulness that needs to be identified and rooted out. In the conversation we will break open what we have learned so far, so that we will be prepared to answer the hard questions about where we will go from here,” he said.
Conversations about Race: The webinar series, features talks by teachers and pastoral ministers, began on July 30. The talks are live-streamed at 1 pm each Thursday and then rebroadcast at 7 pm each evening, with a question and answer sessions moderated by a member of the diocesan ad hoc committee against racism. (To view a recording of previous webinars, visit this page and click “previous webinars:

Bishop’s Online Mass: The Bishop’s Sunday Mass is released online every Sunday morning at 8 a.m. and available for replay throughout the day. To view the Bishop’s Sunday Mass, recorded and published weekly, click this link or visit the YouTube Mass Playlist.