24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

First Reading: Sirach 27:30-28:7

Second Reading: Romans 14:7-9

Gospel: Matthew 18:21-35

Apart from the command to love one another, there is no obligation that Christ taught more forcefully than that of showing forgiveness. Forgiveness and mercy are the basic attitudes of every Christian.

At one time or another, all of us have had the impression of being victims of some injustice and instinctively reacted aggressively against those who are responsible. The prophet Sirach in the first reading says that forgiveness of offenses is an indispensable condition to pray and to obtain pardon from God. Yet, in the actual events of our lives, forgiveness is more often talked about than put into practice because it is difficult and demanding, and it takes a great deal out of us. We more often prefer to nurse old wounds rather than to extend the hand in reconciliation.

During the time of Jesus as it is during our times, the spiritual leaders of Israel condemned vengeance, anger, grudges and advised reconciliation. The spiritual leaders of Israel during the time of Jesus used to discuss how many times one should forgive, say, one’s spouse or brother. Some say, only once; others said two or even three times, but all agreed that there should be no fourth time; in such case, punishment is mandatory. The apostles of Jesus wanted to know exactly what their master’s view was on the matter. Probably, they were thinking that Jesus will say, not more than four times. Yet he said, “seventy times seven times.”

If we remember that the number seven in the Bible represents totality, the surprised reaction of Peter is understandable as he asks his Master, “Do you mean to say that we must forgive always and every time?” Remember, Jesus says not just seven or always but seventy times seven times which means more than always, if it were possible.

We have a great debt to God and we readily ask forgiveness from Him. There isn’t a sin which he will not forgive because there is no guilt that is greater than his love.

To forgive is a choice but it doesn’t mean to let things stand as they are. God’s forgiveness is not that he covers His eyes and pretends not to see the evil ways of men and women. Sin is a very serious thing. It is not like a stain on clothes that can be washed away even without the owner knowing it. God’s forgiveness is seen when He transforms people and leads them to conversion.

For us then, to forgive should mean to open up our hearts to welcome a brother or a sister and help them rebuild their lives.