Septembe 17, 2023
Today is the twenty fourth Sunday of ordinary time. Last week, the church reminded us of the importance of reconciliation through fraternal dialogue and mutual love. Today she invites us to reflect on forgiveness. It is a very important element of reconciliation, and our Christian belief. It is the central message of today’s first and gospel readings.
There is a popular saying that to error is human, while to forgive is divine. That is to say, that the one who sins acts humanly. This is because it is part of our attributes as humans to error or to sin. On the other hand, the one who forgives acts divinely. This is because, to forgive is to participate in a very important attribute and nature of God. That is, His divinity. It is what our God is known for. “He is compassionate, merciful, love and He forgives” (Ps 102).
The first reading of today focuses on forgiveness. First, it reminds us that for our prayer to be answered, we must forgive others. Second, it presupposes that we are all sinners, in need of God’s forgiveness. So, for us to be forgiven, first, we must forgive others. Therefore, Sirac urges us: “Forgive your neighbor the hurt he does to you, and when you pray, your sins will be forgiven.” This is a call to liberate others, in other to liberate and heal ourselves too.
In the second reading, Paul reminds us of something very important. “The life and death of each of us has its influence on the other.” Also, our ability to forgive has a great influence on the other, as well as, on ourselves. Hence, it is important to note that forgiveness has a double effect. It is a single dose medicine that cures one or many people at the same time. It liberates the one who is forgiven, as well as heals the one who forgives.
In the gospel, Christ takes forgiveness to a different and practical level. This unfolds in the dialogue between Peter and Christ. Peter asked a theoretical question: “How many times must I forgive my brother?” Jesus answered him in the most practical way: “seventy-seven times.” Christ’s response simply reminds us that Christian forgiveness does not have limits. We must forgive all, always and forever as the prayer of Sant Francis of Assis says: “Wherever there is injury, there is forgiveness.”
Hence, to demonstrate this, Jesus tells a parable about the kingdom of heaven. Let us reflect on how many times we have acted like wicked servants. He was forgiven a great debt, but he could not forgive his neighbor a little debt. He was set free, but he jailed his neighbor. The message of this parable is that we must treat others mercifully. We must forgive, because God forgives us every day. We must not always hold our neighbors to contempt. Rather, we must consider their situations as God considers our situation always. Jesus tells us to forgive all, and forever. What does it mean to forgive all and forever?
Forgiveness or to forgive someone is not forgetting the things or the person. It is more than that. It is to understand the person and realise the life situations. During Jesus’ sojourn on earth, he exhorted others to forgive. He lived this message in his personal life by realizing the lives of those who denied, betrayed, rejected, and persecuted him. During the most agonizing moments of his life, he prayed for his own executioners saying: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and rich in mercy.” The Lord forgives the many sins that we commit against Him. The experience of the forgiveness of the Lord should enable us to forgive others from the heart. The parable of the unforgiving servant clarifies this point: Just as the master forgave the servant’s debt, the servant was obliged to forgive his fellow servant! In the same we should understand person whomever we need to forgive and realize their life situations and be merciful to them as our God is merciful to each one of us. Then we also will be blessed by Gods unconditional love and forgiveness.
So, as we pray today at this Eucharistic celebration: “Forgive us our offences, as we forgive those who offend us,” let us ask God to help us to be true to these words, by living them practically. Amen.