In the first reading Sirach insists that anger and resentment are hateful things. He also admonishes us to show mercy towards others, since we look to God to have mercy for ourselves. If we hold on to resentment and anger against others who have hurt us, how can we demand compassion from God? And if we show no pity for a fellow human being, how can we plead for pity for ourselves? We make it difficult for ourselves to receive God’s forgiveness if we do not want to forgive.
Too many people take too much unfinished relational business to their graves. A man on his deathbed told the following story. “I had a very good friend called Bob. But he and his wife moved to another country. A little while later, my wife, Charlotte, had to have a very severe operation. Bob and his wife never got in touch with us. I know they knew about it. I was very hurt because they never called to see her or ever enquire about how she was. So I dropped the relationship. Over the years I met Bob a few times and he always tried to reconcile, but I didn’t accept it. I wasn’t satisfied with his explanation. I was prideful. I shrugged him off. A few years later he died of cancer. I feel so sad. I never got to see him. I never got to forgive him. It pains me so much. My advice is: don’t wait.”
Flor McCarthy in “New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies”
This Sunday’s parable of the ‘unforgiving servant’ is only found in the gospel of Matthew and is intended to be a moral exhortation for the Church on the need for forgiveness. To Peter’s question: “How often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? Seven times?” In the Bible, seven indicates completeness; and yet Jesus goes far beyond by replying: “Not seven but seventy times seven!” Implying that there is no limit to forgiveness because God’s love is a forgiving love. The position of the servant in Jesus’ story is absolutely hopeless. He owes the king so much money that even if he worked forever, he would not be able to repay him. This is the strong point of the story. All he can do is plead for forgiveness. Our situation before God is similar to that of the servant. We can’t win God’s forgiveness. All we can do is plead for it. But God is generous with his forgiveness. We then must be willing to extend to others the forgiveness God has extended to us. To refuse to forgive those who have sinned against us would be to exclude ourselves from receiving God’s forgiveness for our own sins. This has a real application in Church life. The thing that is most likely to turn people away from the Church is when they don’t find forgiveness there. Forgiveness is never easy, it is difficult but not impossible. Resentment and bitterness are dangerous things and we can’t be healed of them unless we forgive. To forgive is, first and foremost a duty we owe to ourselves. We forgive for the sake of our wellbeing. We forgive to cleanse ourselves and to receive God’s forgiveness and become instruments of His peace for others. Forgiveness is one of the highest and most beautiful forms of love. It is a holy task. Only God can help us to accomplish it fully.
“I give you the power to forgive”
Think, for example, the case of Timothy McVeigh, who admitted to the terrorist bombing in Oklahoma for which he showed no remorse. The evening before he was executed, various survivors and relatives of survivors were interviewed. I was struck with the sense that those who thought that his execution was going to bring them a sense of closure and peace were deceiving themselves. Far more reasonable was the ‘unreasonableness’ of a father whose daughter was killed in the disaster. He had already come to peace and closure. He had found the grace to let it go and believed that Timothy McVeigh should not suffer the death penalty. For this grieving father, even McVeigh’s life sentence was not to punish him, but to give him a chance, perhaps gradually, slowly to see the light and repent of his crime. He remarked that he and his family had no more energy for grievance and retribution. They had to go on living and wanted McVeigh to have the same chance.
John Pichappilly in “The Table of the Word”
Bridging the Gap
Even before the six-day war, Israel and Jordan had been mutual enemies. But in the summer of 1994 King Hussain of Jordan and the late President Rabin of Israel signed a peace accord. They said they did so that their children would not need to fight any more. To prepare the way for the signing of the peace treaty, Israel’s foreign minister, Simon Peres, crossed the Dead Sea by helicopter to end nearly half century of enmity. He was the first high-ranking official from Israel to openly visit Jordan. He said, ‘It took us a mere 15 minute to ride over. But it took us 46 years to arrive at this time and this place of peace and promise.’ On signing the treaty King Hossain said, “Out of all the days of my life, I don’t believe there is one such as this.” Peace is a process. So too is reconciliation. They both take time.
Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday Holy Days and Liturgies’
An Interrupted Life
The book ‘An Interrupted Life’ is a beautiful testament of a Dutch Jewess, Etty Hillesum, who died in the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1943. Despite the sufferings she underwent she wrote: “it’s too easy to turn your hatred on the outside, to live for nothing but the moment of revenge…. Despite all the suffering and injustice, I cannot hate others.” She forgave her tormentors because of her communion with a compassionate God.
Francis Gonsalves in “Sunday Seeds for daily Deeds”
Asking for forgiveness
Once in Poland an elderly rabbi boarded a train to travel home to Warsaw. He entered a compartment in which three salesmen were playing cards. In need of a foursome, the salesmen asked the rabbi to join in, but he politely refused, saying he had been too busy the whole day and needed to catch up on his prayers, and that in any case he didn’t play cards. They tried to persuade him, but he still refused. At this they got very hostile and started to abuse him. When he still refused, they threw him out of the compartment, so that he had to stand in the corridor for the rest of the journey. On arriving at Warsaw the rabbi got off the train. So did the salesmen. The rabbi was met by a large crowd of his followers. On seeing this one of the salesmen asked, “Who is that man?” “That’s Rabbi Solomon, the most revered rabbi in the whole of Poland,” came the answer. On hearing this the man regretted what he had done. He had no idea who he had offended. So he quickly went to the rabbi and asked for forgiveness. However, the rabbi refused to forgive him. The rabbi’s followers were taken aback at this. They could not figure out how their rabbi, a man renowned for gentleness and holiness, could refuse to forgive someone. So they asked him, “When someone who has offended us asks for forgiveness, should we forgive him?” “Yes,” the rabbi replied. “Well then, why didn’t you forgive that man?” “I can’t for him. The salesman didn’t offend me, the chief priest of Warsaw. He offended a common man. Let him go to him and ask for forgiveness.” In other words, he was asking for forgiveness only because he had offended a famous person. But had it been just an ordinary person that he had offended, it would never have occurred to him to ask for forgiveness. – Fortunately, in our communities there are many who are willing to forgive others. But alas, there are very few who are willing to ask and seek forgiveness from others.
Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday Holy days and Liturgies’
It is in forgiving that we ourselves are forgiven
Once, two prisoners shared the same cell. A dank, dark cell it was. One of them was a strong cruel individual. The other was gentle and timid. The prisoners were hand-cuffed to one another. The strong man was mean and cruel to the timid man. One day, while his companion was asleep the timid man found the key to the cell. He desperately wanted to get away from this horrible cell. But at the same time he did not wish to do any favours to his obnoxious companion. However, he soon realized he could not set himself free unless he also set his companion free. –It is like two people living in the same room, one of whom closes the blind because he doesn’t want the other to enjoy the sunlight. But in doing so he also deprives himself of the sunlight.
Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday Holy days and Liturgies’
God’s fore-giving love
Perugini, an Italian painter of the Middle Ages, stopped going for confession because he felt that people stayed sway from the sacrament hoping to confess just before they died as a kind of ticket to heaven. Perugini considered it sacrilegious to go to confession if, out of fear, he were seeking to save his skin. Not knowing his inner disposition, his wife inquired whether he was not afraid of dying unconfessed. Perugini replied, “Darling, my job is to paint and I have excelled as a painter. God’s profession is to forgive and if God is as good at his job as I’ve been at mine, I’ve no reason to be afraid!”
Francis Gonsalves in ‘Sunday Seeds for daily Deeds
From Fr. Tony Kadavil:
1) "I spoke to a brother whom I have pardoned."
She said: “I use your toothbrush!”
From the Sermons.com
Forgiven: Too Poor to Pay
(A good sermon closer)
Once upon a time two brothers, who lived on adjoining farms, fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side by side, sharing machinery, and trading labor and goods as needed without a conflict. Then the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding and it grew into a major difference, and finally it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence.