Forgiveness Liberates, And Heals
Readings: 1st: Sirac, 27: 30-28:7; Ps 102; 2nd: Rom 14, 7-9; Gos: Mt 18, 21-35
This brief reflection was written by Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans). He is a missionary in Puerto Rico, the island of enchantment. He is the Chancellor of the Dioceses of Fajardo-Humacao, Puerto Rico; the Parish Priest of Parroquia la Resurrección del Senor, Canovanas and the Major Superior of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans), Circumscription of Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic. For more details and comments contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
Today is the twenty fourth Sunday of ordinary time. Last week, the church reminded us of the importance of reconciliation through fraternal dialogue and mutual love. Today she, invites us to reflect on forgiveness. It is a very important element of reconciliation, and our Christian belief. It is the central message of today’s first and gospel readings.
There is a popular saying that, “to err is human, while to forgive is divine.” That is to say, that the one who sins acts humanly. This is because, it is part of our attributes as humans to err or to sin. On the other hand, the one who forgives acts divinely. This is because, to forgive is to participate in a very important attribute and nature of God. That is, His divinity. It is what our God is known for. “He is compassionate, merciful, love and He forgives” (Ps 102).
The first reading of today focuses on forgiveness. First, it reminds us that for our prayer to be answered, we must forgive others. Second, it presupposes that we are all sinners, in need of God’s forgiveness. So, for us to be forgiven, first, we must forgive others. Therefore, Sirac urges us: “Forgive your neighbor the hurt he does to you, and when you pray, your sins will be forgiven.” This is a call to liberate others, in other to liberate and heal ourselves too.
In the second reading, Paul reminds us of something very important. “The life and death of each of us has its influence on the other.” Also, our ability to forgive has a great influence on the other, as well as, on ourselves. Hence, it is important to note that, forgiveness has a double effect. It is a single dose medicine that cures one or many persons at the same time. It liberates the one who is forgiven, as well as, heals the one who forgives.
In the gospel, Christ takes forgiveness to a different and practical level. This unfolds in a dialogue between Peter and Christ. Peter asked a theoretical question: “How many times must I forgive my brother?” Jesus answered him in the most practical way: “seventy-seven times.” Christ’s response, simply reminds us that Christian forgiveness does not have limits. We must forgive all, always and forever as the prayer of Sant Francisco of Assisi says: “Wherever there is injury (offence or hurt), forgiveness.”
Hence, to demonstrate this, Jesus tells a parable about the kingdom of heaven. Let us reflect on how many times we have acted like the wicked servant. He was forgiven a great debt, but he could not forgive his neighbor a little debt. He was set free, but he jailed his neighbor. The message of this parable is that we must treat others mercifully. We must forgive, because God forgives us every day. We must not always hold our neighbors to contempt. Rather, we must consider their situations as God considers our situation always.
Jesus tells us to forgive all, and forever. What does it mean to forgive all and forever? First, it does not mean: “I forgive you, but we must go our separate ways,” or I forgive you, but I do not want to see you again in my life,” or I forgive you, but I will not forget.” It means something much deeper. It means to restore unity, to believe that it is possible to walk together towards a common goal. It means to heal a wound, without leaving a scar.
It is important to add that, sometimes, one equally needs to forgive oneself for the faults committed against self. Endless grieving or guilt conscience because of one’s mistakes in life, reduces one’s quality of life. It hinders both spiritual and material progress. So, we must forgive ourselves too, in other to continue living in peace with ourselves.
Finally, he who forgives act like Christ. So, as we pray today at this Eucharistic celebration: “Forgive us our offences, as we forgive those who offend us,” let us ask God to help us to be true to these words, by living them practically.
Peace be with you all!