FORGIVE, THAT WE MAY BE FORGIVEN!!!
Today is the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time and the Holy Mother Church wants us to strive to have forgiveness in our hearts, especially towards those who have hurt us. Our world is increasingly getting too tensed and nerves are very much frayed. We offend each other all too often and we are almost dagger drawn each day. The recent happenings in the country give us a bird’s eye view into what lack of reconciliation and lack of forgiveness together with the insatiable quest for vengeance is leading us to. By the grace of God, we can use forgiveness as a positive, creative force bringing light into a darkened world. Forgiveness and reconciliation are the central themes of today’s readings.
“Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.” — These words from the Book of Sirach remind us that forgiveness is a deep and necessary part of our spiritual tradition, handed down to us from our Jewish ancestors in faith. Jesus echoes this teaching when He gives us the “Our Father,” which tells us to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
The author of the book of Sirach says, "The vengeful will suffer Yahweh's vengeance; for He remembers their sins in detail. Forgive your neighbor's injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven." Sirach reminds his listeners that if they don’t lay aside anger, forgive and show mercy to an offender they can’t expect to receive much forgiveness and mercy when they face God. This teacher of wisdom tells us how to avoid Divine retribution. God treats us the way we treat each other. Today’s passage says, in various ways, that it's unwise to nurse grudges and wise to forgive and concludes by reminding us of our own death. “Remember your last days, and set enmity aside; remember death and decay, and cease from sin! Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor; remember the Most High's covenant, and overlook faults."
In the second reading, Paul reminds us that we have to forgive others because we belong to Christ who taught us by his own example in forgiving those who killed Him how we must forgive in our turn. Since we humans are related as brothers and sisters of Jesus, we are in the family of God, so hatred and bitterness should have no place in our hearts. Relationships in the community must, therefore, be charged with this sense of generosity and self-sacrifice emanating from the risen Lord, who, through the Spirit, continues to pour into the community the love that brought him to his death (Rom 5:5; 8:3-4).
In today’s Gospel, through the parable of the two debtors, Jesus teaches us that there should be no limit to our forgiveness and no conditions attached to our reconciliation. We represent the greater debtor in the parable because we commit sins every day and, hence, we need God’s forgiveness every day. But we must forgive in order to be forgiven. Jesus explains, after teaching the prayer Our Father, "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father also will forgive you “
We have here a debtor who owes his master ten thousand talents. Now a talent was an amount of money equal to one thousand denarii, and a denarius was a Roman silver coin equal to one day’s labor. Doing the arithmetic, the amount of the debt equaled ten million days’ wages.
Responding to the debtor’s request the king, in an act of subtle sensitivity, changes the obligation from a debt to a loan. Did you notice that in the reading? It tells us: “Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.”
OUR SELF-CONCEITED NATURE AND THE NEED FOR REMORSE - What is striking is that the debtor didn’t ask for forgiveness, he asked only for time to pay it back. How could he possibly think he could pay back the huge obligation he owed his master? Take a look at the man’s spiritual state and you will discover that even up till this time, his focus was more on himself and not even on the King. He exhibited an air of self-righteousness, especially thinking that he could offset such a huge debt.
Sometimes we are conceited and self-righteous. We feel we can actually earn something from God by our manner of life or by what we do. We think that God is indebted to us too. The servant also did not show sincere remorse for his sins and that is evident in the manner with which he treated his fellow servant. We need to be truly remorseful of our sins, to deeply appreciate the fact that we have offended God; only then can we genuinely offer same to others.
We must realize that God loves us regardless of our sins and shortcomings. He hates the sin, but loves the sinner. Hence, our motivation to forgive others should spring from the fact that God loves us despite our sins and He died for us while we were still sinners and He continues to love and forgive us, while promising to be with us till the end of time (Matt 28:20).
OUR OFFENCES ARE SO GREAT - No offense our neighbor can do to us can compare with our own personal debt to God for offending him! We have been forgiven an enormous debt we could not repay on our own. That is why the Father in heaven sent his only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who freely and willing gave up his life for our sake to ransom us from slavery to sin, Satan, and death. Paul the Apostle states, "you were bought with a price" (1 Corinthians 7:23 ) and that price was Jesus' death on the cross. Through the shedding of his blood on the cross, Jesus not only brought forgiveness and pardon for our offenses, but release from our captivity to Satan and bondage to sin.
WE MUST IMITATE THE ONE WHO FORGIVES US - If God has shown mercy to us in granting us pardon for our sins, then we, in turn, must show mercy and forgiveness towards every person who has offended us. The willingness to forgive those who offend us is a sacred duty. If we expect God to pardon us and show us his mercy when we sin and disobey his commandments, then we must be willing to let go of any resentment, grievance, or ill-will we feel towards our neighbor. Jesus teaches us to pray daily for the grace and strength to forgive others in the same measure in which God has forgiven us (Matthew 6:12,14-15). If we do not show mercy and forgiveness to our fellow human beings, how can we expect God to forgive us in turn? The Apostle James says that "judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy" (James 2:13).
THE ACTION OF THE KING - The king then acts on behalf of the powerless. He exercises legal judgment and employs the law on behalf of the poor and powerless fellow servant. We need to see that God comes to us looking for change in our hearts, not simply a change in our ways of thinking and acting. Changing our ways are “externals”, not “internals.” It’s your heart that God wants.
Beloved, “getting even” is very much a part of our ways of doing things, even in today’s world. All one need do is to pay attention to the news headlines that daily confront us. Our world is still held hostage to notions of “getting even,” believing that justice will be served in that way, or that some sort of balance will be restored. We see that today in our country and even in the world. We need to learn to forgive those who hurt us so that God can forgive us our numerous sins.
FORGIVENESS LIBERATES US - Jesus wants us to see that forgiveness is liberating, and it is the most liberating for the one doing the forgiving. Forgiveness allows us to walk in the freedom of the sons and daughters of God, not as children of the law. Many of us cling to resentments in horrible prisons of pent-up anger, in the grip of resentments and in our lusts to “get even”. This throws us into victimhood. We feel like we are victims and seek ways to find just compensation, revenge and retribution. We live under the law. Living under the law leads us to “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” approach. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead… victim no longer. He is totally free because he is totally forgiving. He teaches us to ask God to “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us.”
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I FORGIVE? - Jesus' answer comes in the form of an idiom, "seventy times seven times" which means that at all times and in all places we are to embody God's forgiving grace. Forgiveness involves more than absolution of guilt. It involves the reconciliation of our past and the healing of our brokenness. It involves intentional work to heal and be reconciled with another. We will be forgiven to the length, height and depth that we measure out forgiveness to others, all the while remembering that the people we forgive are forgiven only if they repent, convert their hearts, and then actually accept forgiveness. For forgiveness to work both parties must be involved.
FORGIVENESS DOES NOT MEAN CONDONING EVIL - Neither in God nor in the Christian community, do forgiveness and reconciliation mean the indefinite tolerance of evil and unjust behavior. Forgiveness is not “selling out;” it’s not saying that what people have done to us is somehow “okay,” or that it does not matter. Forgiveness liberates us from the ways of this world; it takes us into the heart of God. To forgive is truly divine, and the presence of God is something we all desperately need in our lives, particularly in the days in which we presently live.
If we want mercy shown to us we must be ready to forgive others from the heart as God has forgiven us. Do you hold any grudge or resentment towards anyone? Ask the Lord to purify your heart that you may show mercy and loving-kindness to all - and especially to those who cause you grief and ill-will.
Prayer – Teach us to forgive those who hurt us from the depths of our hearts that we may bountifully receive your forgiveness. Amen!!!