19th Week in Ordinary Time
1st Reading: Ezk 12:1-12
The word of the LORD came to me: Son of man, you live in the midst of a rebellious house; they have eyes to see but do not see, and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious house. Now, son of man, during the day while they are looking on, prepare your baggage as though for exile, and again while they are looking on, migrate from where you live to another place; perhaps they will see that they are a rebellious house. You shall bring out your baggage like an exile in the daytime while they are looking on; in the evening, again while they are looking on, you shall go out like one of those driven into exile; while they look on, dig a hole in the wall and pass through it; while they look on, shoulder the burden and set out in the darkness; cover your face that you may not see the land, for I have made you a sign for the house of Israel. I did as I was told. During the day I brought out my baggage as though it were that of an exile, and at evening I dug a hole through the wall with my hand and, while they looked on, set out in the darkness, shouldering my burden. Then, in the morning, the word of the LORD came to me: Son of man, did not the house of Israel, that rebellious house, ask you what you were doing? Tell them: Thus says the Lord GOD: This oracle concerns Jerusalem and the whole house of Israel within it. I am a sign for you: as I have done, so shall it be done to them; as captives they shall go into exile. The prince who is among them shall shoulder his burden and set out in darkness, going through a hole he has dug out in the wall, and covering his face lest he be seen by anyone.
Gospel: Mt 18:21—19:1
Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? 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 his brother from his heart.” When Jesus finished these words, he left Galilee and went to the district of Judea across the Jordan.
TO ERR IS HUMAN; TO FORGIVE IS DIVINE: In today’s Gospel, Jesus not only preaches forgiveness but also shows the way even forgiving those who crucified him. The rabbis taught that one need to forgive only three times: “If a man commits a transgression, the first, second and third time he is forgiven, the fourth time he is not forgiven” (Yoma 86b). In his question Peter shows more benevolence that he doubled this part of forgiveness. Jesus wants his followers to forgive unlimitedly. In the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples he gives emphasis to forgiveness. Jesus clearly reasons that God’s forgiveness is dependent on our forgiveness to those who sin against us. If a disciple of Jesus refuse to forgive the sins of his brother or sister he is inviting God to withhold forgiveness from him. Retaliation is not the right path for a disciple; rather forgiveness is a quality to be valued and practiced. The disciple of Jesus should forgive wholeheartedly and constantly.
Prayer: Lord help me to have a forgiving heart.
LIMITLESS FORGIVENESS: God’s work is based on His ability and desire to forgive our sins. The passage of the children of Israel to Canaan by crossing Jordan is a show of God’s limitless forgiveness. Despite the hardness of their heart and the many mistakes they had done, God did not count against them and did not revoke his promise to them. In the same way, when we believe in Jesus, we are forgiven of all our sins and we pass from death to life as we begin to realize that there is no limit to the mercy of God. However, forgiving others is the condition without which we cannot be forgiven. Un-forgiveness results in torments and suffering as we hope to punish those who offended us. As Nelson Mandela said un-forgiveness is like taking poison hopping your offender will die.
FORGIVING FROM THE HEART: As God is merciful, so should we be, though His mercy to us is much more than what we can ever offer. In a show of mercy, Jesus died for us, paying for our debt and reconciling us to the Father, “We are bought by high price” (1Cor 6:20). Peter also reminds us, “It was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed”(1 Pet 1:18). Despite this, we often fail to fathom the depth of God’s mercy; when it is our turn to be merciful, we strangle our debtors. Let us remember, “Forgive and you will be forgiven.” Never put an upper margin when it comes to forgiving others; seventy times seven – with the same person! To forgive and delete the disturbing memories of injustice and abuses is a favour given to ourselves too. It is liberating and healing to let go our desire to revenge. It is said, “All disease comes from a state of forgiveness.” Let us remember what Mahatma Gandhi said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”