This past Friday, September 11, was the nineteenth anniversary of an event that Americans consider as one of the most significant in the nation’s history. It has become one of the epic historical events, equivalent to that of the founding of the United States; the ending of the conflict between the North and the South; the bombing of Pearl Harbor; the ending of World War II; and the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. On September 11, 2001, the United States met its challenge both on its freedom as a free people and its willingness to accept and share the grace of forgiveness as God wanted them to give to their enemies.
Our reading for this Twenty-Fourth Sunday of ordinary time is an invitation to exercise forgiveness beyond boundaries. The first reading from the book of Sirach, written around 180 B.C, reminds us today if we don’t forgive and show mercy, we can’t expect to receive mercy from God either. Today’s Psalm 103 tells us, “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and great in kindness.” In the second reading, St. Paul reminds us that we have to forgive others because we belong to Christ, who, by his own example of forgiving those who crucified Him, taught us how we must forgive in our day to day life. Since we are related to each other as brothers and sisters in Jesus, we are in the family of God. Therefore, hatred and bitterness toward anyone should have no place in our hearts.
Today’s Gospel passage of the “Unforgiving Servant” is found only in the Gospel according to Matthew. Through this parable of the two debtors, Jesus teaches us that there should be no limit to our forgiveness, and no conditions should be attached to our reconciliation. We see Peter clarifying with Jesus asking, is it enough to forgive his offender seven times? According to the Rabbinic teaching, a man must forgive his offender three times, and the fourth time he is liable to punishment. Peter being a good Jew wanted to go beyond the three-time requirements. But he went to seven times thiking that Jesus would approve it. For the Jews, number 7 is holy, symbolizing perfection, fulness, abundance, rest, and completion. Peter probably thought that Jesus would positively commend on his generosity of making three into seven. However, Jesus doesn’t seem to be satisfied with seven times; instead, He made it seventy-seven times, which means we need to forgive others innumerable times, without limit, beyond boundaries.
...Forgiveness is like the oil that heals the wounds of our daily hurt, guilt, pain, fear, anger, hatred, disappointments, and brokenness….
Forgiveness does not mean tolerance of evil and unjust behaviors. Forgiveness is not an easy gift; it is expensive, costly, and demanding. Forgiveness is an expression of compassion and mercy to the offender. Forgiving and forgetting brings soothing and healing to our minds and souls. Forgiveness is a therapy for emotional, spiritual, and psychological distress. Forgiveness is like the oil that heals the wounds of our daily hurt, guilt, pain, fear, anger, hatred, disappointments, and brokenness. It brings wholeness, wellness, and happiness. Forgiveness can make our baggage lighter and our lives brighter. If our negative emotions and feelings are not resolved by forgiveness, it may be suppressed into our subconscious and bounce back on us as physical illness and ailments, which will require treatments and therapies. It is unwise to nurse grudges against others. It is wise and smart to forgive and forget, as our life span is concise, and our eternal destiny is decided by how we forgive and work for reconciliation with those who wound and hurt us.
Dear brothers and sisters, as Christians, we are called to forgive, forget, and be reconciled with one another in our life journey. Let us remember the prayer of St Francis of Assisi, “It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.” The prayer Our Father, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” reminds us of the need for forgiveness. Horace Bushnell wrote, “Forgiveness is man’s deepest need and highest achievements.” It is your need, my need, and our need. Therefore, let us share it and celebrate life as God’s children. May God bless us all. Happy Weekend!
May God bless all of us!
Fr. Tomy Joseph Puliyanampattayil, MSFS
(Fr. T J. Puliyan, MSFS)