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Twenty-fourth Sunday – Year A – Ordinary Time
Readings: Sir 27:30-28:7; Rom 14:7-9; Mt 18:21-35.
1/ Reading I: RSV Sirach 27:30 Anger and wrath, these also are abominations, and the sinful man will possess them. 28:1 He that takes vengeance will suffer vengeance from the Lord, and he will firmly establish his sins. 2 Forgive your neighbor the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray. 3 Does a man harbor anger against another, and yet seek for healing from the Lord? 4 Does he have no mercy toward a man like himself, and yet pray for his own sins? 5 If he himself, being flesh, maintains wrath, who will make expiation for his sins? 6 Remember the end of your life, and cease from enmity, remember destruction and death, and be true to the commandments. 7 Remember the commandments, and do not be angry with your neighbor; remember the covenant of the Most High, and overlook ignorance.
2/ Reading II: RSV Romans 14:7 None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
I. THEME: Why must we forgive others?
Some people think to forgive is hard to do and to always forgive exceeds human capacity. They give out some reasons for it: If people know you are easy to forgive, they shall take advantage of you! If you keep forgiving, you shall keep suffering till death! Some think the sin which other cause for them is so great and painful that they can’t never forget it; they shall hold it inside as long as they live and shall carry it to the tomb! One even says even if God shall condemn her to hell, she can’t forgive her husband’s sin.
These reasons are understandable but aren’t enough not to forgive. Today readings give us valid reasons why we must always forgive others. In the first reading, the author of Sirach wanted to state plainly the principle, “to err is to be a human being.” If everyone sinned and received forgiveness from God and others, he must forgive the one who sinned against him. In the second reading, St. Paul advised the Roman faithful to imitate Christ who lived and died for them; they must also live and die for others. In the Gospel, Jesus told people a parable to teach them that forgiveness belongs to justice. If a person received so great of a pardon and refused to forgive other, he shall be condemned in jail until he paid everything in full.
1/ Reading I: Forgive in order to be forgiven.
1.1/ Everyone need to look in the mirror; they need to face God: The first reason for forgiveness is that everyone has been forgiven by God. No one escapes sins; if one sins, he needs to be forgiven by God. If one examines his conscience carefully, he shall find out two things: First, he committed lots of sins, he isn’t perfect. Secondly, he has been forgiven many times by God and others. The author of Sirach must meditate these two things often before he advised us to do the following:
– He that takes vengeance will suffer vengeance from the Lord, and he will firmly establish his sins.
– Forgive your neighbor the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray.
– Does a man harbor anger against another, and yet seek for healing from the Lord? Does he have no mercy toward a man like himself, and yet pray for his own sins?
– If he himself, being flesh, maintains wrath, who will make expiation for his sins?
One might refuse to face God in this life, but he can’t avoid Him in the Last Judgment Day. At that time, all of his sins shall be displayed in details by God’s angels and he has to pay in full amount before his sins can be forgiven. So, it is better for us to face our sins now and try to compensate for them by always forgive the sins of others who committed against us.
1.2/ People who don’t frequently examine their conscience shall have a hard time to forgive others: Those who seldom examine their conscience used to think they are perfect and others are sinners. If they look back more to themselves, they shall recognize they are sinners too. Moreover, many people, though they know they are sinners, still condemn others because they think no one know of their sins while others’ sins are made known in public. In chapter eight of the Fourth Gospel reported an example of this habit. A woman who was caught in her adulterous act was brought to Jesus. According to Moses’ law, she must be stoned to death; but people want to know Jesus’ reaction. At first, Jesus sat quiet to invite them to examine of their conscience. When they rushed him to make a decision, he told them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (Jn. 8:7). No one dared to throw the first stone because Jesus was standing in front of them as a mirror. People can hide their sins from others but they can’t hide them from the one who can see clearly all of hidden things in their heart.
2/ Reading II: “None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.”
Forgive in order to be forgiven is the just thing to do. St. Paul in the Letter to the Romans led us further by advising us to imitate Christ who lived and died for us.
2.1/ Christ lived and died for us: Christ took the form of human being and died on the cross not because of his sins, but of our sins. St. Paul reasoned, “None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.”
Moreover, no one is an isle; everyone owes others something. When you owe then you have to repay. One of the reasons that held people back from forgiving others is to fear of sacrifice; they are afraid that if they keep forgiving they must keep sacrificing. These people must remember that they are living because of others’ sacrificing: Children live by their parents’ sacrifices; citizens live by many unknown soldiers’ death; our faith came from many martyrs’ blood and missionaries’ efforts. So, when it comes to our turn, we must be ready to sacrifice from others.
To help us to live this ideal, St. Paul invited us to give up the individual view and to see everything under the corporation view. All of us are members in the Mystical Body, the Church, with Christ as the head. The members don’t live individually but for the whole body. When one member suffers, the whole body shall suffer; when one member is healthy, the whole shall feel good.
2.2/ We should live and die for God and others: Realizing that God, our parents and many others have done lots of good things in our life, we must make a determination to return our favors to them. What shall we return to the Lord for all good things He has bestowed on us? Since we can’t do anything directly to God, we have to look for other possible ways to do for him. Luckily for us, He gives us the way, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). When we forgive others’ offenses, we do it to God; we compensate many sins which we committed against God.
The author of Psalm 116 had the same reason in thinking, “What shall I render to the Lord for all his bounty to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psa. 116:12-15). Our forgiveness for others didn’t lead us to death yet; and even if it leads us to death, we must still do it because it is only just if we sacrifice our life for God to return what Christ has sacrifice his life for us.
One of the main reasons that leads to many divorces in today families is unable to forgive other. If husbands and wives live their vocations as the Christians properly, they should never think about divorce because Christ died for them and they promised that they are loyal with each other until death.
3/ Gospel: “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
3.1/ How many times one must forgive his opponent? We must be grateful for Peter’s fast reaction and his sincerity; because of him, we had Jesus’ clear explanation about the touchy and very difficult problem to handle.
How many times must we forgive others? A Vietnamese adage said, “The maximum is three times.” The Jewish custom said, “The maximum is seven times.” St. Peter based on the tradition when he asked Jesus, “As many as seven times?” Jesus’ answer are startled us, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”
The commentators used to argue with each other, what is Jesus meant of “seventy-seven times?” Some said it is 70 times 7, which equal to 490 times. Others said it is 707 or 777, a huge number. The important point which Jesus wanted to emphasize is that whenever our opponent said that he is sorry, we must forgive him. Many people shook their head and joked: Even the saints in the altar must come down to solve the problem, how can we forgive to those who keep sinning against us? But if we know that to become good is a progress which needs to be practiced many times, we must patiently forgive others.
3.2/ Why must we forgive? Instead of giving the answer, Jesus gave a clear example which can solve many other problems related to forgiveness. He said, “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.”
The contrast between the two debts and the manner of solving showed the wickedness of the one who was forgiven. The amount he was forgiven is ten thousand talents (tálanton) which is corresponding to 4.8 million dollars (one talent is about 5000-6000 denarii); while the amount his friend owed him was only 100 denarii (about 10 dollars). If we compare the two debts, this amout is so small. We were told of his action toward his friend, “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 him put in prison until he paid back the debt.”
Why did he act as such? Because he thought that no one shall know his action, especially the one who forgave him. But all the things he did couldn’t be hidden from his friends since these people could also be his debtor’s friends. “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.”
Similarly in our relationship with God, if we refuse to forgive the small sins of our brothers and sisters as the wicked in today passage, how can we expect God to forgive the serious sin which we committed against Him? Therefore, forgiveness isn’t an option, but a duty and the punishment if we don’t, as Jesus warned us: “So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We committed many sins against God and others. If we received God’s and others’ forgiveness; we must forgive all who sin against us.
– To easily forgive others, we should frequently examine our conscience to recognize our sins and weaknesses. If we have so many of them, why we expect others to be free of sins? The one who is hard to forgive is the one who seldom examines of his conscience; so he thinks he is better than others.
– Forgiveness is justice; not an option. If we don’t forgive others, God shall not forgive our sins. If our sins shall not be forgiven, what shall we expect from God in the Last Judgment Day?