Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time ~ 09/13/2020
Sir 27:30-28:7, Rom 14: 7-9, Mt 18:21-35
Dear sisters and brothers,
What happens within us when we don’t forgive? Let me give you an example: A lady was having a discussion with her sister about some important business matter when her well-educated daughter entered the room and joined in. The daughter listened and then after a while voiced agreement with her aunt about the issue at hand. The mother became so enraged that she started yelling, cursing and on the spot, disowned her daughter. A few days later, a picture of the daughter was found in the waste-paper basket, torn into many pieces. The daughter was now dead to her mother. For years, no one was able to bring about a reconciliation of mother and daughter. Anger overwhelmed the mother, her health was greatly affected and she died, before his expected time. It can be said that anger killed her. Anger created a hell within her.
If you were given an opportunity to rewrite this scene, how would you change things? In the Book of Ecclesiastes (7:9) one translation reads: “Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, for anger rests in the bosoms of fools.” And another translation: “Only fools get angry quickly and hold a grudge.” Remember, anger can kill. It can and it does. Robert Ingersoll says that “Anger is the wind that blows out the lamp of the mind.” What he means is that when we are angry, we do not think rationally.
Jesus responds to this very situation as we hear him answer Peter’s question, which, as always, is our question too. Peter asks, “Lord, if my brother (or sister) sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?” (The number seven in the biblical is considered the “perfect number” indicative of completeness so Peter must have thought he was going to ace this quiz. He didn’t!) Jesus raises the quota considerably to 77, implying “as many as it takes.” In teaching Peter and us this perspective, Jesus reveals to us yet again what God is like and how we can and should strive to be. We pray in the Responsorial Psalm for today, “The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger and rich in compassion.” That’s it! If each and every one of us, from the high and mighty to the low and meek, tried to be kind and more merciful, slow to anger and rich in compassion, we could turn this world around.
It is simple justice that we should forgive your neighbor without limit. Ben Sira saw this truth from afar when he said: “Forgive your neighbor the wrong he has done, and your sins will be pardoned when you pray” (Sirach 28:2) That is the cure we need. Jesus’s way is not to set a limit on my willingness to love, to forgive, to be kind and to be merciful. It must be taken a step further by teaching our children this way. We do that by our own example first and foremost.
The other side of this approach is that I must be willing seek the forgiveness and mercy of others whom I may have offended or hurt. That takes far more strength of character. Anyone can dodge, rationalize and deny. Only the genuinely strong person has the humility to confess the truth about his or her behavior.
I remember my mom taught me not to go to bed angry. Since then I maintained that spirit. My motto is to be open, transparent and vulnerable in relating with my fellow brothers and sisters in my daily life. If I wronged/hurt someone, I like to see him/her approach me and tell me what happened. I always listen with my heart and have a time to express myself. I accept it if there is a truth of my wrong doing and then I ask forgiveness for what I did. It is vice versa, if someone wronged/hurt me, I invite him/her to meet with me and talk about it as an adult to adult. But, first and foremost, I make sure I show him/her clearly where the issue is. Once she/he discovers the problem that is when the forgiveness and reconciliation occur between us.
Forgiveness also works wonders for the person who is forgiven. He/she is set free to walk in friendship with God and with the person he/she has offended.
We need to pray for the gift of forgiveness. Unless we forgive, we will not be able to let go of bitterness and resentment, and so will not know peace and healing. Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting. It means remembering and letting go. Forgiveness is a holy task. Only God can help us to accomplish it fully. Amen!
Fr. Valery Burusu