13  September 2020: Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

by FR. Clyde, Parochial Vicar

‘How many times should we forgive?’

Today’s Gospel reminds me of Jessica Rokhol from the State of Montana here in the United States, whose mother was murdered by an ex-husband on August 24, 2011.

Although, the sentence for the murderer is life-imprisonment, still Jessica, being a devout Christian made a noble act of forgiving her step-father.

Inside the courtroom and in the presence of the court judge, Jessica uttered these words to everyone present in the session hall, most particularly to her step-father.

She said:

It hurts not just because my Mom is gone, but because you, are the cause of it. Regardless of what you have done, I still love you for the person you were to my brother and I, as our step-father.

 God has kept anger off of my heart this whole time, and given me an unearthly peace, and wrapped me in His love.

 It is because of God that I forgive you!  I don’t know how you got the point of killing my Mom, but please know that there is hope, and that I pray for you every day, that you will find the Lord again and have a relationship with him stronger than you ever did before.

 The decision that you made was wrong and I know that you know you have to live with that.  But regardless of what everyone in this courtroom says, regardless of what everyone on earth tells you, remember this: Jesus died for all of our sins including yours!”

My brothers and sisters, today we are asked by this the question: ‘how many times will we forgive a brother and or a sister if they sinned against us?’

Is it just seven times? No, but ‘seventy times seven times’ as Jesus recommends it.

During the time of Jesus, number seven was considered to be a “perfect number” because it is on the seventh day that the Heavenly Father finished his creation on earth “perfectly” and so He rested on that day.

Therefore, “forgiveness” in the perspective of Jesus is perpetual. We are to forgive forever, always, endlessly-perfectly!

This gospel from Saint Matthew contains one of the clearest and the most powerful of Our Lord’s parables.  It illustrates the tendency of us human beings to be hard on others and easy on ourselves, which is the exact opposite of what true charity demands.  The parable is self-explanatory, but to grasp its implications – we must reflect on it in terms of our everyday existence.  Forgiveness is a basic condition of a Christian existence.

Let us learn from different people who wrote something on forgiveness, which I feel are very good points for reflection for all of us this Sunday.

  • George Herbert says: “He that cannot forgive breaks the bridge over what he must pass himself: for every man has a need to be forgiven.”
  • Henry Ward Beecker says: “I can forgive, but I cannot forget — is only another way of saying ‘I cannot forgive!’”
  • Saint Augustine of Hippo says: “If you are suffering from a bad man’s injustice, forgive him lest there be two bad men.”
  • Mahatma Ghandi says: “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.
  • From an anonymous author, it says: “To err is a human failure; to forgive is a human achievement.”
  • Another from an anonymous author, it says: “We are like beasts when we cause pain at others; we are like fools when we judge others; and we are like GOD when we forgive others.”
  • According to this author, Paul Lewis Boese: “Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.”
  • And from this anonymous author, it says: “The first to apologize is the bravest. The first to forgive is the strongest. And the strongest to forget is the happiest.”
  • Another from an anonymous author, it says: “Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.”
  • Dave Willis said: “Holding a grudge doesn’t make you strong; it makes you bitter. Forgiving doesn’t make you weak; it sets you free.”
  • Anonymous writer says: “I don’t forgive people because I am weak. I forgive them because I am strong enough to understand that people make mistakes the same way I do.”
  • Nelson Mandela said: “When a deep injury is done to us, we never heal until we forgive.”
  • Robert Brault said: “If you cannot forgive and forget, pick one.”
  • Mark Twain said: “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet flower sheds on the heel that has crushed.”
  • Philip Brooks said: “Forgive and forget. Bear the faults of others as you would have them bear with yours. Be patient and understanding. Life is too short to be vengeful and malicious.”
  • Lewis Smedes said: “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you…”
  • Oprah Winfrey said: “True forgiveness is when you can say, ‘Thank you for that experience…’”
  • Lewis Smedes, again said: “You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well.”
  • Marianne Williamson said: “The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world.”
  • And lastly, Clive Staples Lewis said: “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

My dear friends, too often we, myself included, wait for others to make the first move. We hesitate because we might face rejection or we don’t want to seem weak or eager for reconciliation.

That’s not how Jesus treated us. He made the first move. He loved us so much he died for us. We can show that same love by having His courage to treat our family and our friends in that same loving manner … don’t wait for them to display their love but offer our love first. Each of us must be Christ-like … we must take the initiative.