September 17, 2023
From Fr. Quan
"Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive?
As many as seven times?"
Jesus answered, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
The message of this week’s Gospel may be one of the most difficult passages in the Gospel. We are hearing much about a society of violence, and of terrorism. We are reading much about a world of hatred, and of resentment. In the Gospel, Jesus shows us that love is the only act that can overcome hate. Blessing is the only act that can overcome cursing. Forgiveness is the only act that can right a wrong. This is the core of Jesus’ teaching, which he himself practiced. This is the love that God has for us. It is a one-sided love in the sense that a return is not expected. God reaches out in infinite love to every single person without exception. God wishes every person to experience that love. That love is not returned; it is often rejected or ignored. Love is known in action. Love is a verb. One of the most important and difficult actions of love is forgiveness. We forgive because we know we need forgiveness. We bless because we know we need blessings. We show mercy because we know we would be lost if we do not have God’s abundant mercy. From the Gospel of this week, Jesus teaches us what forgiveness means.
First, forgiveness is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of strength. It frees ourselves from what others think of us; from the opinions of the world; from our own faults and failures; from resentment and revenge. Forgiveness is something we do first of all for ourselves so that we can be free and move on in life. Being merciful and forgiving is an important way to ensure that we remain in close relationship with the Lord. Forgiveness is self-healing, it cleanses not only our pains but our sins as well.
Second, forgiveness is not ideal; it is reality. We must remember that we are all sinners and justice would demand our very own condemnation. We believe that God promises to forgive everyone who repents and trusts in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. Jesus forgave his disciples and his enemies. Moreover, he forgave our sins and those who sin against us, as we ask him as often as we pray the Our Father, “to forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” The world cannot survive if we seek only justice. Our life does not bear fruits if we seek only justice. Pope John Paul II affirms that “There is no peace without justice and no justice without forgiveness.”
Third, forgiveness is not forgetfulness; it is holiness. Forgiveness is impossible without God’s grace. We can only forgive our enemies, our brothers, and sisters based on God’s love for us - a personal experience of God’s mercy towards us, and by a desire to forgive those who sin against us. Forgiveness is not from us. It begins with God. We do not choose to forgive. We only choose to share the forgiveness we have already received from God. Hence, when we forgive, we do not forget what God has done for us. Our conversion could only come about through God’s grace, mercy, and love, and we must desire that for our enemies, our brothers, and sisters.
Finally, forgiveness is not human; it is Christian. Forgiveness creates space for new life. Forgiveness is an act of hopefulness and resurrection for the one who forgives. It is the healing of our soul and life. Forgiveness takes us out of darkness into light, from death to life. We look to the future rather than the past. We try to see and love as God sees and loves. Forgiveness is a way in which we align our life with God’s life. To withhold forgiveness is to put ourselves in the place of God.
Forgiveness is the most precious gift God has given to us. Forgiveness, for Jesus, is not a quantity. It is a quality; a way of being, a way of living, a way of loving, a way of relating, a way of thinking and seeing. Forgiveness is nothing less than the way of Christ. If we are to follow Christ then it must become our way as well.