Homily for the Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Tiempo de lectura aprox: 2 minutos, 12 segundos
God Asks Us To Forgive
Too often we withhold forgiveness. We cannot understand why we should forgive. The memory of the wrong done keeps playing on our minds. The wound is still bleeding. We can still feel the hurt, the anger is real, and the bitterness is eating us up. We want to let go, but we cannot. It gets even worse when the one who hurt us live without any sign of remorse or justice rendered. Maybe we are too ashamed of what we have done. And we cannot forgive ourselves.
Besides, it is harder to forgive when we live in a culture that emphasises rights without responsibilities. Put it another way, forgiveness is nearly impossible in a society that makes us feel entitled to be treated well without telling us of our duty to understand and accept the struggles and inadequacies of others. How can we ever forgive in a Me-Society when it is all about me? Perhaps Me-ismwas the problem of the unforgiving servant in our Gospel today.
It was obviously all about him. He felt entitled to be forgiven by the King, and to have his fellow servant pay him in full the debts owed him. He could not see beyond himself, his tiny little world of self-worship. As such he could not appreciate what he was given nor show compassion to his fellow servants. We all know how he ended up. The King seized him, threw into prison until he paid all that he owed, which was more than what he himself was owed.
Perhaps our difficulty to forgive comes from our sense of instant-gratification. There seems to be no delayed gratification, no patience to figure out what happened to us, why it happened and what made it happen. We feel hurt and we immediately demand our own pound of flesh. We want the one who has wronged us to suffer exactly what we feel. We seem to have lost the sense of sacrifice, the ability to forgo our immediate want for the need and the good of others.
Unfortunately, when we cannot forgive, or when we withhold forgiveness, we let our physical, mental and spiritual health suffer. We become restless. Our blood pressure rises. Our immune system breaks down. We lose sleep and appetite. And we simply become a mess. Alice May, the author of Surviving Betrayal, describes the consequences of withholding forgiveness with these words – it is like someone drinking poison and hoping it will kill someone else.
Is that what we want for ourselves? Definitely not! We want a better life, a healthier and more prosperous life. We want to live life to the full. We want to be happy and free. We want peace. And God also wants that for us. Saint Augustine puts it this way, ‘God desires our desires.’ So He asks us to forgive. In other words, He is asking us to do something good for something bad that has been done to us or something bad we ourselves have done. What is that good we must do?
It is the good of gratitude. We must rise above the wrong that has been done to us and remember the good we have received. This is the blind spot of the unforgiving servant. He was ungrateful and as such he was unforgiving. It is also the good of mercy. Hesed is the Hebrew word for mercy. It means loving-kindness, to be of one kind with the one who has wronged us. It means to see more than the action of others or oneself. It means to see the person and will his or her good.
Finally, it is the good of prayer. The poet Alexander Pope once said, ‘to err is human, and to forgive is divine.’ Forgiveness is not something we do all by ourselves. Forgiveness is something we do with the help of God. It is in prayer, that space where we bring our real selves (our pain, hurt and anger) to the real God (who heals and transforms us), that we find not only the reason to forgive but also the strength to forgive and be forgiven. For prayer changes us so that we can change our situation and do good.
Fr Francis Afu