2020 Trinity XI – As I Have Forgiven Others!

The Rt. Reverend Anthony F. Rasch
23 August 2020

St. Luke 18: 9-14

Suspended above the Altar of Mission San Miguel hangs a large painted wooden plaque.   Depicted in the center is a large Eye, framed about by a cluster of clouds and twenty extended Beams of Light protruding out from the clouds.   All is meant to depict the ‘All Seeing Eye’ of the Almighty.

The Setting for this Parable the Lord has painted for us takes place within the Great Temple in Jerusalem.   There we find two men have entered within its Sanctuary to pray before the Almighty’s All-Seeing Presence.

The first stands center stage in the Presence of the Almighty, whilst the second stands afar, too humble even to lift up his eyes – a self-confessed sinner, deeply contrite and desirous to receive the forgiveness of the Almighty.

The Pharisee is the first to speak – not so much to the Almighty as to himself.  He is described in the parable this way: ‘(He) prayed thus within himself.”  [In other words, boasting of himself].  The self-righteous Pharisee thanks the Almighty that he is unlike the rest of humanity; most assuredly unlike the Tax Collector behind him whom he equates as being a sinner and therefore as detestable!

Thus, within the setting we observe an arrogant man in whom there appears to be not a speck of contrition, whilst the other fellow is the epitome of genuine contrition, welling forth from a penitent heart.  Whereas the Pharisee appears to excuse himself of sin, the Tax- Collector  will be the one to return to his home JUSTIFIED in God’s Eye. 

Psalm 66 proclaims: “If I incline unto wickedness with mine heart the Lord will not hear me.   But God hath heard me and considered the voice of my prayer.   Praised be God, who hath not cast out my prayer, nor turned his mercy from me.” 

The Lord’s Prayer petitions: ‘Forgive us our Trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  With even greater exactitude Luke’s translation proclaims: “Forgive us our trespasses as we have forgiven those who trespass against us!  

Of equal importance – We are to forgive others their trespasses from the heart – if we ourselves hope to obtain lasting Peace of Mind and find Rest for our Souls!  If we freely forgive others all cruel and hurtful deeds, whether done to us in past or present – Blessings will transpire from within one’s very own heart!

A name associated with my early childhood, when I was then six or seven years of age, came to mind of recent.    One Russell Grower, a young man in his twenties, lived across the street from our home in Inglewood.   Except for his occasional cutting of that family’s front lawn, we rarely ever saw him emerge from their home.

World War II had ended a year or so before.  I remember my mother told me that Russell had served in the US Army and had been captured by the Germans and spent the remainder of the War confined within a German Concentration Camp. 

I remember most my mother telling me that he had been regularly ‘pistol-whipped’ about the head by one of the guards.   And, that after he had returned home was plagued with intense headaches that had produced in him a drastic change in personality that had left him near-totally disabled!  Of recent I happened upon the account of a WWII American Soldier who had been captured and interred in a Japanese prison camp.  

Louis Zamperini at age nineteen had made the 1939 U.S. Olympic team.   With the onset of the war he served as a Bombardier.   Eventually his B-24 aircraft was shot down over the Pacific.   He and one other were the only survivors of the crash.  Both survived forty seven days adrift on a raft.  Discovered by Japanese sailors, they were taken captive, imprisoned, and starved and in addition regularly beaten savagely by a sadistic prison camp guard.

At the end of the war Zamperini returned home a broken man.    As a result of the severe beatings he we suffered with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  His life spiraled out of control and it soon became a shambles.   He behaved with cruelty toward his wife and children and his marriage was bordering on ending with divorce.  He was the further obsessed with unrelenting hatred toward his former Japanese captors, in particular hatred toward the sadistic soldier who so often had beaten him savagely.

In 1949, a Billy Graham Revival was in town, and his wife insisted they attend.   Billie’s message that day was rooted in the Necessity of Forgiving Others and particularly one’s Enemies!   A message that powerfully penetrated both Zamperini’s heart and his thinking! Zamperini had at long last found the solution to all the trauma he had suffered for years.

As one who had now come to the realization that God had freely forgiven him ALL his sins (including all the abusive behavior and hurt he had caused others), Zambrini unreservedly forgave his former Captors, including the sadistic soldier who took such great delight in beating him.   He later determined to travel to Japan to meet up with the former soldier, to tell him that he had FORGIVEN him!   From that meeting onward the two became closest of friends!

Over time, Zamperini emerged into a highly successful and sought-after Motivational Speaker.  And often he included among his lectures: The Giving up of One’s Hatred toward others can, realistically speaking, lead to the HEALING of one’s own soul, as well as of one’s own life!  

The Judgmental Pharisee considered many persons to be the ‘Enemy’; be they Samaritans or Romans, all Sinners in general, and Tax Collectors in particular.   Forgiveness toward any of the above would have never entered his mind.  We may surmise the Pharisee was too busy praising himself before God to observe GOD AT WORK in the lives of others – in particular, within the lives of persons imagined to be despicable or the enemy!  

The ‘All Seeing Eye of God’ over the Altar of San Miguel Mission serves as a reminder for us all – Our Almighty God watches over us, and also sees deeply within us: All our sins, our mixed motives, all our prejudices, including also any hidden hatreds.

As we stand before Him in His Presence, He has no desire to hear of how Good or Spotless we think ourselves to be!    That which He delights to hear is that WE FULLY FORGIVE OTHERS from the heart, and that we will are ready to FULLY COOPERAGE WITH GOD, allowing his message of ‘FORGIVENESS FREELY GIVEN’ to flow into the lives of others THROUGH US, thus enabling us to rejoice in the knowledge that we too have been Justified in the Eye of God!