24th Sunday, Sept 13, 2020
Scriptural Reflections Sir 27/30…. Romans 14/7 Matthew 18/21-35
In the motion picture of the Life of Gandhi, there is a scene in which a Hindu father whose child has been killed by a Muslim comes to Gandhi in great grief and remorse. Out of a sense of retribution he has killed a Muslim child. He now kneels before Gandhi asking how he can get over his guilt and regret. Gandhi who is gravely ill, tells the Hindu man that he must adopt a Muslim boy and raise him up as a Muslim boy. In the beginning the Hindu man felt this advice very strange, but later he understood the inner meaning of Gandhi’s advice, and he learned to take away hostility from his heart and replace it with love. That kind of forgiveness is more than passive resignation to a bad situation. By the grace of God, we can use forgiveness as a positive and creative force bringing light into a darkened world.
The readings of the day concern forgiving and being reconciled with those who wound us. They remind us of the path to forgiveness, mercy and reconciliation and challenge to walk this path with Jesus is the only way of life.
In the first reading from the Book of Sirach, written around 180BC by a wise Jew by the name of Ben Sirach reminds his listeners that if they don’t heal and forgive and show mercy they cant expect to receive much of that from God in return. It is unwise to nurse grudges and it is wise to forgive because our life span is very short and our eternal destiny is decided by how we forgive, how we work for reconciliation with those who wound us and how we render humble and loving service to them.
In the Second Reading, Paul reminds us that we must forgive those because we belong to Christ who by his own example is forgiving those who killed him, taught us how we must forgive in our turn.
In the gospel passage, through the parable of the two debtors, Jesus teaches us that there should be no limit to our forgiveness and no conditions attached to our reconciliation. We represent the greater debtor in the parable because we commit sins every day and hence, we need God’s forgiveness every day. But we must forgive to be forgiven. Jesus explains after teaching us the prayer “Our Father”, for if you forgive men their trespasses your heavenly Father will forgive you”. At the same time, we must be fully aware of the truth that forgiveness doesn’t mean condoning evil, neither in God nor in the Christian community, forgiveness and reconciliation does not and must not mean indefinite tolerance of evil and adjust behavior. God and the Church can forgive the repentant sinner, but they cannot condone unrepented behavior, that is a source of real evil and suffering. The gates of forgiveness are always open to everyone who turns away from sin (The Catechism of the Catholic Church ccc#982).
We need to think more of the advantage of forgiving. Alexander Pope once said, “To err is human, to forgive is divine”. When we withhold forgiveness, we remain the victim. When we offer forgiveness, we are doing it also for our own wellbeing, forgiveness allows us to move beyond the pain, the resentment, and the anger. When we forgive, we make the choice that heals. We may never forget the hurt that we have experienced, but we can choose to forgive. Forgiveness finally changes us from prisoners of our past to freed children of God, at peace with him, with each other and with our memories.