The Sunday Project
Forgive & Forget, Not Revenge & Regret
Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time |
By Gabe Ferreira
Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight. The vengeful will suffer the LORD’s vengeance, for he remembers their sins in detail. Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven. Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the LORD? Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself, can he seek pardon for his own sins? If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath, who will forgive his sins? Remember your last days, set enmity aside; remember death and decay, and cease from sin! Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor; remember the Most High’s covenant, and overlook faults.
Brothers and sisters: None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For this is why Christ died and came to life, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.
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.”
In the first reading we are told to let go of our anger, that as sinners we may hold tight to what drives hate into our hearts. This isn’t how we want to be or live. How hard it is to forgive when someone deceives and betrays us or does an injustice against us!? But to keep faith alive we must learn to forgive. If we can surrender to God’s overwhelming mercy and disarm ourselves we could let go of what no longer serves us and only obstructs our path forward to restore relationships and heal people's hearts.
In today’s responsorial psalm we are reminded the Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion. The pain and disbelief, in the absence of knowing, this is the cross we all must bear at certain points in our lives. Anger, pain, and sadness passes away through time as we accept what is. All our weaknesses, shortcomings and flaws we ask God to remove them through divine forgiveness so we may love ourselves and know human suffering.
Jesus tells us in the second reading to forgive sins against us not seven times, but seventy times seven, so that our hearts may heal and grow in love for others and help bring peace to our community. It isn’t easy to forgive, we guard our hearts and trap them in cages afraid that to forgive would cause us further disappointment and suffering. We often find ourselves trying to rewrite the past of what could have been and can’t get past the story we make up in our own minds. We look for another way, some of us try to get even, we lie, curse and play games back at the one who wronged us in some way. In the end, we have not only hurt ourselves in trying to hurt another but we’ve lost sight of God’s eternal love and ruin our chances of mending what has been broken.
To forgive another we must accept them whether we like what they’ve done or not. We don’t find freedom from suffering through vengeance, and placing unrealistic expectations on others does not help them heal. In failing to forgive, we become the prisoner of our own hatred. How do you will the good in another, if you can’t even love them and forgive them?