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Homilies/Reflections

UNLIMITED FORGIVENESS. A reflection for the 24th Sunday of theOrdinary Time, Year A.
By Fr. Donatus Okeke
Sun, 13 Sep 2020

Readings:Sirach 27:30-28:7;Romans 14:7-9; Matthew 18:21-35

I have encountered many people who wished to forgive someone who offended them grievously, but it seemed difficult for them. In order to assist such people, my first step is always to remind them that we all constantly need God’s forgiveness. When we come to confession, our intention is for God to forgive us our sins. Bearing this in mind motivates someone to forgive others. If we really meditate on the words of the Lord’s Prayer, we will readily forgive others; or many will not say the prayers so as not to indict themselves. In today’s liturgy, the Church enjoins us to live according to the Christian virtue of forgiveness. This virtue is difficult to keep especially when someone constantly offends us. From the readings of today, we can formulate a maxim: forgive, so that you will be forgiven.

The author of the First Reading, Ben Sirach enjoins us to guide against the vice of anger. For him, the virtue of forgiveness is the cure for anger. He points out some benefits of forgiveness. Forgiving others is a condition for our sins to be forgiven. It is also essential for our prayers to be answered. Living in perpetual hatred for another person affects our mental and spiritual wellbeing. Christians today are called to eschew hatred, resentment, anger, revenge and malice. Rather we should embrace forgiveness.

In today's gospel, Jesus enjoins us to forgive without limit. Peter asked Jesus to what extent he can forgive his brother who offends him. He suggests seven times as a limit. Jesus however proposes seventy times seven (490). It is probable that Peter must have spoken on behalf of the other disciples. Peter may have suggested seven (7) since it was a perfect number.

By maintaining seventy times seven, Jesus recommends an uncountable forgiveness. How can one count wrong until it reaches 490?  Even if you can count it, Jesus encourages us not to count offences. In fact, by the time you have forgiven to this extent, it has become a habit.

Our ability to forgive others should be our appreciation to God for constantly forgiving us our sins. To explain this, Jesus narrates the parable of the servant whose master forgave the debt of ten thousand talents he owed him; yet he could not forgive his fellow servant who owed him a hundred denarii. The gap between the money he owed his master and that which his fellow servant owed him is much. How could he forget so soon the forgiveness he received from the master?

The servant may have legal right to arrest his fellow servant, but has no moral right. The master in this parable is like God who tampers justice with mercy. But, many of us behave like the servant who wants our own pound of flesh.

Because of his unforgiving spirit, he puts himself into prison where he was initially delivered. Thus, we imprison ourselves when we fail to forgive others. We are to forgive readily as God has forgiven us in Christ (Eph.4:32).

In the Second reading, St. Paul reminds us that we belong to the Lord; whether living or dead. Therefore, we are to act in a manner God wants us to act. We do not exist for ourselves alone. Let us forgive one another as Jesus our Lord would want us to do.

Beloved in Christ, Jesus calls us to ‘forgive and forget’ no matter how difficult it may be. How will you feel if Jesus tells you that in your life time he can only forgive you 490 times? How will you feel if the Church tells you that in your life time, you have 490 opportunities to go to confession? As we receive forgiveness from God, we must be ready to share same forgiveness with others.

 

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