September 13, 2020 | 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A)
Reading 1: Sirach 27:30—28:7
Reading 2: Romans 14:7-9
Gospel: Matthew 18:21-35
I'm probably not the first person to say this, but forgiveness is hard. Sometimes, depending on the severity of the situation, I would even say that it's impossible to forgive.
In my life, I've gone through many difficult situations where I found it hard to forgive the other person. As I write this after reading through this week's readings, I can't help but think of my last ex. He was manipulative, violent, and physically abusive. He took advantage of me and hurt me. When our relationship ended, I felt so much anger and resentment inside of me. "Don't give him any satisfaction," friends would tell me. "Don't give him any time of day, don't talk to him, don't forgive him."
It seemed easy enough, so I focused all my energy on hating my ex and harbouring resentment for him. But, as you might guess, it didn't make me happier or more fulfilled. I was actually quite empty.
In the Book of Sirach, this predicament is summed up quite nicely: "Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord?" (Sirach 28:3). The more anger I felt, thinking that I held something over him, the more empty I became. Very soon, a dear priest friend gave it to me straight: if anything, I was burning through my own energy and time, and my ex? He probably didn't care one way or another.
But on a deeper level, what this week's readings show is the incredible mercy of God: one that, while we were still sinners, we received through Jesus' death on the cross. God loves us and forgives us despite all the sins we've committed. And so, if we want to call on Him for forgiveness, then we need to also be ready to forgive other people.
God is like the king in the gospel who settled the debts of one of his servants: he cancelled his debt. His mercy and forgiveness are so vast and extravagant that he cancels every last penny that this servant owes him. When it came time for this servant to deal with another fellow servant, he forgot the generosity and mercy that was shown to him and demanded repayment and justice.
It seems obvious to me now, but how easy is it to go with sad eyes to the Father and ask for forgiveness, and then turn around and withhold forgiveness from others? How easy is it to turn the other way and hold a grudge?
Dear friends, Jesus told His disciples to forgive not seven times, by seventy-seven times (Matthew 18:22). In the same way that His mercy is open to us, that only works if we are in turn merciful to others. Not only is this what we are called to do, but I can assure you that it makes your life a lot richer as well. It helps with our own healing, and it calls us to higher. May we continue to strive for that higher ground, and look deep within ourselves to forgive those who hurt us.
Verse for reflection: Does anyone harbour anger against another, and expect healing from the Lord? If one has no mercy toward another like himself, can he then seek pardon for his own sins? (Sirach 28:3-4)
Questions for reflection: How often do I hold grudges towards other people? What might God be calling me to let go of and forgive?
Prayer: All-merciful God, you forgave me even before I was born. You love me and show me mercy even when I don't deserve it. Help me to show that same mercy to others, especially those who hurt me.