Before last week's wonder of a total eclipse I was focusing on forgiveness. More than anything else I wanted us to understand the value of forgiveness as a participation with God in the very thing that excited Jesus.
I wanted us to understand that God is with us both as the incarnate one and as a transcendent expectation to which we add our "yes!" or "alleluia!" and join the song of love that is first God's speaking us and all creation into being.
That's why we must understand forgiveness as more than transactional. When we forgive, especially when it is for the sake of the unrepentant, we claim and share a portion of that approaching territory that is God's gracious gift to us.
When we read in last Sunday's gospel Jesus saying to Peter "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” what we're being told is that we are agents of God's reign.
Binding and loosing means we are participants in a renewal of creation furthered by our faithful judgement and reconciliation.
Forgiveness matters. Judgement matters, too. Not that we would assume to be final arbiters of any matter pertaining to human sin but we are to "speak the truth in love" so that real forgiveness can be sought and supplied.
Sadly, it is the addiction of our age that we accept something less than truth and reconciliation. We satisfy ourselves with shortened or misdirected apologies like "I regret you misheard me" and brush-offs like "whatever" or "it's no big deal."
But God's reign shines a brighter light than the ones our weak hearts substitute. That's why Peter's keys open both to the binding of judgement AND the loosing of reconciliation. You really can't have one without the other. And so we owe each other the truth spoken in love.
Without love our attempts at confession will lack the humility and trust that help us to fully name and own our wrongs as such. Without love our absolutions and releases will stop short and leave conditional remainders and grudges.
Love is that light! God loved us first. The light of God's loving reign extends through us and our participation in "binding and loosing." Love is the key to forgiveness.