Fr Vincent's reflections on the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus tells Peter, (and us), to forgive his brother “seventy-seven times.” How can I really make that happen in my life when I cannot forget?
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24th Sunday in Ordinary Time Video Message 2020
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. R/. Amen.
The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. R/. And with your spirit.
On this 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, let us pray:
Look upon us, O God,
Creator and ruler of all things,
and, that we may feel the working of your mercy,
grant that we may serve you with all our heart.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. R/. Amen.
As before, if you don’t have your Bible with you, please pause this video to retrieve your Bible so you can follow along. The Gospel today is Matthew 18:21-35.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began the accounting,
a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
Since he had no way of paying it back,
his master ordered him to be sold,
along with his wife, his children, and all his property,
in payment of the debt.
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’
Moved with compassion the master of that servant
let him go and forgave him the loan.
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants
who owed him a much smaller amount.
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding,
‘Pay back what you owe.’
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
But he refused.
Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison
until he paid back the debt.
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened,
they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master
and reported the whole affair.
His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?’
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”
The Gospel of the Lord. R/. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
Forgiveness is never easy! And, add to that, most people have an unrealistic expectation of what forgiveness means. Most people want forgiveness to re-establish the relationship sin destroyed as if it never happened: “forgive and forget!” So, many of us say, “I can’t forget, so that means I can’t forgive.” Do we have a lot to learn!!!
Forgiveness is not saying: “I was not hurt;” or, “what you did is now all right.” It is not saying, “you can continue to do the same thing, and it doesn’t bother me.” Forgiveness does not give the person permission to remain unchanged. In fact, God forgives the sinner especially because He expects the person to change! After Jesus forgave each sinner, he always added, “Now go and do this no more!” Divine forgiveness frees the person from the power of sin so they can become the holy person God created them to be.
Forgiveness really requires the person damaged by the sin to acknowledge “I have been hurt,” but to say to him/herself, “I don’t want to remain a victim of that hurt.” When a person does harm to another, the sinner has taken on a power inappropriate to the relationship and made the victim of the sin a powerless person. For the victim to get power back, he or she must recognize that, “I now have the power to forgive or not forgive.” If the victim is consumed by pain and anger – holding a grudge – then he might use this power to refuse forgiveness. He tries to heal himself by becoming the “bully” the sinner was in causing the initial harm. But then, there is never healing because the victim becomes a sinner no better than the first sinner, and peace cannot stay in a heart consumed by anger. I know this personally!
When the victim of sin says, “I want power, but I want the right kind of power,” then he chooses to forgive. This is the power of Jesus to love even when it is not easy. The victim says, “I know I have been hurt, but I don’t want to be consumed by the pain; I want to live free.” So that means I must become Christ-like in believing there is more to the sinner than just the sin. I must choose to let go of the grudge because it only serves to keep me in emotional bondage to the past. I do not say “the sin doesn’t matter,” I do not say “the sinner can continue his harmful behavior.” I say, “I will give another chance for the person to do right this time,” and I feel good about myself because I am choosing to be Christ, who forgives.
So, I don’t forget. In fact, I must remember, because I must be cautious even as I offer forgiveness. I am giving the person a second chance to do the right thing. And I keep power to protect myself; I don’t give the person control over me, but only control over themselves to prove they can be better than before. If they fail again, I will remember, again, but keep offering them a chance – as Jesus tells Peter – until they get it right. The same as all the chances God gives me and you! Remembering the sin without being controlled by hurt means each time I forgive, I choose to love and become more like Christ and less like a powerless victim. How do I continue to forgive? By remembering, also, all the times God has forgiven me for the same sins and given me chance after chance to do better. God’s love and patience with me is the source of my power to be loving, forgiving, and patient with others.
May God bless you and make you a source of blessing and forgiveness for others. Amen.
The Lord be with you. R/. And with your spirit.
And may the blessing of almighty God,
the Father, and the Son, ✠ and the Holy Spirit,
come down on you and remain with you for ever. R/. Amen.