My dear friends, the readings of this 24th Sunday in ordinary times, year A, return to a critical issue that Christ often spoke about—Forgiveness. The First Reading (Sirach 27:30 – 28:1-5) says: “Anger and wrath are abominations, yet the sinner hugs them tight. The vengeful will face the Lord’s vengeance; for He will remember all their sins in detail. Forgive your neighbor the wrong done to you; then, when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven. Does anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the LORD?” In the Gospel reading (Matthew 18:21-35), Christ concludes the parable by saying, “And my Father will do exactly the same to you (not forgive you and even withdraw previous forgiveness given) if you do not forgive each other from your heart”.
Let’s be clear, forgiveness is not easy! As human beings, we are not wired along the axis of forgiveness; we are wired for “Fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (Leviticus 24:20). When we get hurt, our human nature kicks in—we want to get even, hold the grudge, be vindictive, fight back, let the offender have it, and to do whatever we can to maximize the pain and revenge. Yes, hurt can be very real and sometimes hurts very badly! Yes, many a time, we may have done nothing to deserve the hurt. It was a wicked act, and the aggressor may not even be able to make it right again. Yet, holding onto our hurt and living with anger, bitterness, wrath, and vindictive spirit only works to poison our life, not the life of our enemy. We are the one who gets more hurt physically, emotionally, spiritually, and eternally. It is not worth it. Nobody is worth the loss of my soul. My salvation is worth more than my hurt. Scripture says, “No unforgiving spirit shall see God”.
So, let’s find it in our heart to forgive when people hurt us either because they asked for forgiveness, or to show the depth of our love for God and neighbor, or for our own sake and salvation, or because we realize that we are also sinners who have, in one way or the other, hurt others and God Himself.
It is important to realize that when we forgive others, we become the kind of person God wants to use for a higher purpose because we are showing God that we are grown enough to appreciate His commandments; and that He can trust us to do right with His blessings, no matter what; that He can trust us not to be blinded by vindictiveness, anger, wrath, and revenge; that He can trust us to move on with life, to be free of the burden of unforgiveness, to be true servants of the master, and to be temples of the Holy Spirit. Forgiveness has liberating power. Let us do everything we can to be free from the slavery and burden of unforgiveness, wrath, and revenge.