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Word Alive — Fr. Bel San Luis, SVD / September 17, 2023

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The topic of this 24th Sunday is forgiveness. In Jesus’s parable, the king represents God who wishes to write off our debt of sin completely. However, there’s a condition. That is, we should also forgive our enemy.

* * *

It’s not easy to forgive. One time, when I was a college administrator, I was trying to pacify two teachers who were quarreling bitterly. I called to my office the offended teacher, gently pressuring her to forgive the offender since the faculty members were getting divided. “Father,” she said, “I’ve already forgiven her…but I don’t want to see her face.” I responded, “You cannot forgive if deep down you still hate her.”

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How can you forgive an unfaithful spouse or someone who is backbiting you or has inflicted injury on a relative or even took his life or an unjust treatment from a superior or employer?

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The common response to hatred and violence is to get even or take revenge.

However, Jesus teaches that the condition of our own forgiveness is to pardon our enemies. Thus, he said clearly: “If you do not forgive your brother or sister who has wronged you, your Heavenly Father will not forgive you either” (Matthew 6,15).

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The great advocate of non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi, said similarly: “If you live by the principle of revenge or an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, the whole world would be blind and toothless.”

* * *

There is an objection, however, that says, “If you are always forgiving a culprit or taking the case lightly, he will abuse your kindness and do the offence again.”

To forgive does not mean that we let criminals go free or that we leave society at their mercy. There are laws which enforce justice and impose the corresponding punishments.

* * *

The example of late St. Pope John Paul II after the assassination attempt on his life is a case in point. Although the gunman had been forgiven by the Pope, he languished in jail until he had finished his prison term. Punishment was meted but hatred and revenge did not prevail.

* * *

There’s a couple who broke up because of a misunderstanding and bitter quarrel. The young husband wrote: “Dear Marietta, words cannot express my deepest regret at having broken our relationship. Let’s start all over again. Signed: Your ever loving and forgiving Tony.”

A postscript (P.S.) followed: “Congratulations! I heard you won P20 million in the lotto.”

* * *

It’s not too difficult to discern the real motive behind the sugar-coated words of the “forgiving” Tony. But if it’s a way of starting all over again, why not?

Do you want to go through life living in hatred, resentment, and animosity? Life is short. It would be the greatest tragedy if we carry the heavy burden of a stony heart to our grave!

* * *

Forgiveness was so important in the mind of Jesus that’s why he made it explicit in the Lord’s prayer which we recite daily at Mass, thus: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”

Forgive and you will be forgiven by God.

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