Reflection: Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
From the Sambanwá Special English Missalette, 13 September 2020
In some Filipino movies, I always hear this typical conversation about forgiveness:
Character 1: “Hinding hindi ko siya mapapatawad sa ginawa niya.”
Character 2: “Patawarin mo na siya. Himihingi na siya ng tawad. Kung ang Diyos nga ay nagpapatawad, matuto ka rin magpatawad.”
Character 1: “Hindi ko siya kayang patawarin sapagkat hindi ako Diyos!”
My dear friends, it is really hard to forgive most especially if the wound is deep and sometimes we would think that only God could forgive without any boundaries, but in our Gospel today, Jesus is telling us to forgive also boundlessly. Why? It is because God has also forgiven us. As God has forgiven us, we, too must learn to forgive others. The problem with us is that we want to be forgiven. Perhaps all of us would demand for forgiveness and consideration when we have done something wrong, right? But we, ourselves, do not want to forgive. We demand for mercy but we do not give mercy. The beatitudes say: “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.” So, when we only demand for mercy for ourselves, what kind of attitude is that? Selfishness!
When we say, “hindi ko siya mapapatawad sapagkat hindi naman ako DIyos”, we are becoming selfish human beings. We only want ourselves to be the recipient of peace and forgiveness. While it is true that God is rich in mercy and forgiveness, we must not also forget that we were created in the image and likeness of God. (Cf. Gen. 1:27) This means that when we forgive, we become reflections of God to others. When we forgive, we become true to our nature as human beings.
In the Gospel today, we see the Master becoming indignant with the first servant because he cancelled out his debts and yet this servant became cruel with his fellow servant who has also some debts with him. Yes, my dear friends, the Master was mad at his selfishness. Siya ay pinatawad ngunit ayaw niyang magpatawad. My dear friends, God granted us and is continuously granting us forgiveness although we don’t deserve it. God is so generous and kind. The responsorial Psalm says: “The Lord is kind and merciful.” But sadly, most of us aren’t that grateful. How can we thank God’s kindness and mercy? – by giving that gift of forgiveness to others, too.
Forgiveness requires time. Wounds take time to heal. And so, God does not require us to forgive immediately, what God looks at us is our effort and intention to reconcile. At least the first move counts.
Why is it difficult to forgive? In the first reading, it says: “Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight.” (27:30) Who wants wrath and anger? Who wants to live all their lives with grudges and hate? Sino’ng gustong mamatay na punung-puno ng poot at galit? Perhaps all of us want to die peacefully but the problem with us at times is that we become comfortable with grudges to the point that we “hug” them as the first reading tells us. This calls us, therefore, to step out of our comfort zones. The world teaches us to nourish vengeance, grudges and hate; in fact, the world teaches us that it feels good to place “justice” in our hands; justice that is more often biased and irrational – “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” This is our comfort zone. When we satisfy our vengeance, we make no difference with other animals. But we are not just animals, we are rational animals. Forgiveness makes us human although we may call the person who have offended us “inhuman”, forgiveness makes us different from them.
Finally, forgiveness grants healing. In the first reading, we read: “Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord?” (28:3) – Ah, healing comes with forgiveness. They are two sides of one coin. Who, then is healed? The one offended and the offender. First, the offended, they say that when hurt, forgiveness is the gift that you can offer to yourself. Healing will never start unless we initiate it. Then, second, the offender, - the offender, as long as he or she is contrite, would be healed. Conversion starts here.
To forgive is not the same as to forget. A wound becomes a scar and it is there forever. Forgiveness is remembering. It is remembering that this person offended me once AND also remembering that God has given me many chances to change, to become better; and so, in gratitude, I am also extending that chance to change to this person who have offended me.
— Rev. Fr. Jed Anthony F. Peña
Formator and Principal, Holy Rosary Minor Seminary