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Word Alive — Fr. Bel San Luis, SVD

February 19,2023 / 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Once I was trying to patch up the bitter quarrel between two teachers. Calling them one by one to my office, I tried to use my Dale-Carnegie-influence of burying their hatred and reminded them of Christ’s teaching of forgiveness. As I entreated and coaxed the first teacher, she flared up and exclaimed: “Father, I’ve forgiven her already, but I don’t want to see her face! Huh?” I almost fell off my chair.

Thank the Lord, after some time they were able to talk with one another amicably.

* * *

Jesus’ message in this 7th Sunday is about forgiveness and loving one’s enemy. But like the above story, loving an enemy is not easy. Retribution or taking revenge is the more common response to wrongdoings. Indeed, how can you forgive a spouse who’s unfaithful? Or someone who’s always backbiting you or has inflicted a serious injury on a family member? Or someone who doesn’t pay a loan?

* * *

In the Old Testament and among various cultures, the underlying principle of response is: “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”

But as the advocate of non-violence Mahatma Gandhi once said, “If we live by an ‘eye for an eye’ and a ‘tooth for a tooth’ kind of justice, the whole world would be blind and toothless today!”

* * *

When Christ said, “Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you,” he was not asking us to have a nice feeling towards an enemy. Jesus is saying that we should not seek revenge because when we do that, nobody wins. Besides, the aggrieved will go through life with hatred in his or her heart, always seeking to take revenge.

* * *

But isn’t Jesus’ teaching of non-retaliation to evil condoning evil? Loving an enemy does not mean that a crime, like murder or a big debt, should be forgotten altogether. Let’s remember that although God is a God mercy, he is also a God of justice.

It may require letting justice take its course in the proper forum. Recall that when the late St. Pope John Paul II had forgiven Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish who had attempted to assassinate him, was imprisoned for several years to atone for his crime. So, you can forgive and love an enemy, but justice is still served.

* * *

In some cases, the accuser and offender could resort to an amicable settlement or a win-win solution. Their anger could be settled if only one party gives in where there’s room for mercy and forgiveness. One cannot go through life carrying a heavy baggage to the grave.

* * *

Obviously, there should be a reparation on the offender’s part but the accuser should make it possible by not demanding a reparation that’s unreachable.

Without humility, forgiveness and good will, there’d be no end to the numerous cases like that of TV comedian Vhong Navarro and model Deniece Cornejo.

* * *

For Christians, Jesus wants us to forgive our enemies. His words clearly and explicitly declare it, thus: “If you don’t forgive your enemy, neither will your heavenly Father forgive you” (Mt. 6,15).

Forgiving an enemy is not only a command of the Lord but also a CONDITION of our own forgiveness from God. So, forgive and be forgiven.

* * *

THE LIGHTER SIDE. When a wife gets angry at her husband, she gets hysterical… and also HISTORICAL (digs out her husband’s past sins). When we forgive, we should also forget the past.

* * *

Once, I was counseling a friend who could not forgive a relative. Towards the end of our talk, I said, “Jesus Christ wants you to forgive your enemy.” He blurted out, “Fr. Pwede ba? Huwag natin isama ang Diyos dito! (Fr., is it OK?. Let’s not include God in our conversation!).

“Why not?” I said. “Are you a pagan?”

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