SUNDAY, TWENTY FOURTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
Sir 27: 30- 28: 7; Ps 103; Rom 14: 7-9; Mt 18: 21-35
FORGIVENESS ALLOWS A NEW BEGINNING
Maria Goretti is a young Italian virgin martyr who is one of the youngest saints to be canonized. She was a girl filled with grace and maturity and her cheerful obedience and piety were observed by those around her. At the age of 11, Allessandro – the Serenellis’ son tried to make sexual advances towards her. When she refused, he stabbed her 14 times. While she lay in the hospital, she asked for him and forgave him before dying. After being released from jail 27 years later, he went back to her mother and asked for forgiveness and went on to become a lay brother in a Capuchin monastery. St. Maria Goretti is the patron saint for forgiveness which is the main theme in all of today’s readings.
The reading from the book of Sirach tells us about the healing power of forgiveness. When we realize God’s gift of forgiveness for us, we are set free. Free from guilt, free from shame, and free to become all that God wants us to be. Can a man who harbours anger against another man seek healing from God? If a man has no mercy towards a man made of flesh just like him, how can he pray for his own sins to be forgiven?
In today’s Gospel, Peter asks Jesus, “If my brother has offended me, how often shall I forgive him?”, to which Jesus replies, “.. until seventy times seven.” He continues through a parable telling of a servant who begged for mercy. There was no way out of his debt and so all he could do was beg for mercy. And his master, who was moved with compassion, granted him mercy and forgave him ten thousand talents, but the servant doesn’t forgive his fellow servant who was indebted to him of a hundred pence. What happens next?
The Lord summons him and questions him, “Should you not have mercy on your fellow servant as I had mercy on you?” So, he was called wicked and handed over to be put into prison and through this Jesus warns us that the same would be true with the Father. The Father intends for us that we are treated the same way we treat other people. Yes, the Lord is indeed kind and merciful, slow to anger and rich in compassion, but will he forgive us if we do not forgive our neighbour?
We are made aware that as humans, if we hold onto anger and grudges against others, the pain will harm us. Even psychology warns us that our physical and mental health can be negatively affected if we bottle up and hold onto instead of forgiving others. It can increase our blood pressure, disrupt our sleep and can also weaken the immune system. But why do we hesitate to forgive others? Does it bring down our self-esteem? Or does it hurt our ego? Is it pride that makes us stubborn?
At some point, even if we feel we were right or could be wrong but need to forgive, reconcile, forget and move on. The Our Father given to us by Jesus himself is one of the most powerful prayers that helps us to ask for forgiveness and reminds us that we too need to forgive others –‘…and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us…’ The word ‘forgive’ is said to appear 127 times throughout the books of the Bible and thus we find many instances of forgiveness – the most common of that of the prodigal son. But it all began when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit yet God delivered them of their sin. Joseph the son of Jacob forgives his brothers who drove him away by selling him off to slave traders. In the Gospel, we have instances of Jesus forgiving Mary Magdalene, the Samaritan woman at the well and the woman caught in adultery because as Jesus says, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” He even asked God to forgive the ones who condemned and crucified Him. Our God is truly loving and merciful.
Let us remember that love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends (Prov 17:9). Today let us take some time to thank God for His forgiveness and mercy towards us and ask Him for the grace to be forgiving and merciful towards others
Response: The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and rich in mercy.
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