Sunday, 17 September 2017 : Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we heard the Scriptures telling us what God wants from each and every one of us Christians, that all of us who believe in Him and therefore, are Christians, must be filled with forgiveness, the readiness and willingness to forgive, and to let go of the anger in our hearts and minds, and forgive those who have slighted us, caused us pain, suffering or sorrow.

That is the essence of what we have heard from the Scripture passages this Sunday, beginning with what we heard from our first reading today, taken from the book of the prophet Sirach. In that passage, grudge and wrath were mentioned as the two major obstacles for all of us in seeking God’s pardon and forgiveness. That is because when we are filled with grudge and wrath, anger and hatred against another, then we cannot be forgiven ourselves, since we ourselves have not forgiven those who have wronged us.

It is in our human nature to bear grudges against another, hatred and jealousy towards those whom we perceive to be better than us, to be more privileged than us, to be more fortunate than us. We are easily angered by those who have caused us pain, suffering, harm or loss of face, and there are many, many reasons for us to hate others and to have revenge on what we have been slighted or discomforted with.

Yet, it is far more difficult for us to forgive others, to let go of the anger and all the emotions pent up within us. It is much more difficult for us to keep ourselves cool and to be able to embrace our enemies, and all those whom we dislike. But as Christians, in truth, all of us are challenged to do so, as the Lord Himself taught us that the way forward for us, is to learn to forgive one another.

Do you know why is it that we find it so difficult to forgive? That is because we are often too full of ourselves, too selfish and too filled up with our ego, that we cannot bear to make ourselves to forgive those who have wronged us, or even to seek to be forgiven. It is our pride that has become our undoing, because we have allowed pride to blind us and to prevent us from seeing and understanding the love of God.

We feel entitled in our lives, and we often feel that we have the right to demand justice and to have people begging forgiveness from us, just because we feel that we are wrongly treated or that we do not get what it is that we wanted. Yet, how can we be forgiven, if we ourselves do not open ourselves, our minds and our hearts to forgive others?

In the Epistle or the second reading today, we heard St. Paul telling the faithful and the members of the Church in Rome, that all of us, each and every one of us belong to the Lord, and all of our lives belong to Him alone. We live for Him, and our existence is thanks to Him alone. Without His grace and blessings, and His love for each and every one of us, we would not have existed at all.

And yet, many of us place far greater importance on ourselves instead of the Lord. We are often so focused on ourselves, that we forget that it was, in the first place that by the grace and mercy of God, that we have been able to live in this world. That is because, as what we have heard in the Gospel passage today, God, our Lord and Master, have forgiven us all our debts, our mistakes and shortcomings, as represented by the Lord Jesus in His parable.

In that parable, Jesus spoke of a servant who owed his master a lot of money, ten thousand pieces of gold in fact. The master wanted to punish the servant, threw him into slavery with all of his belongings and family, but when the servant frantically begged to be given a second chance before the master, the master had pity on him and forgave him from all of his debts, his entire huge debt of ten thousand gold pieces and more.

Yet, we heard then that the same servant, upon being released from the bondage and the great burden he had, turned onto another servant who owed him money, a sum far smaller than what the servant owed the master. The servant refused to listen to the pleas made by the servant who owed him small amount of money, and put the latter into prison.

This upset the other servants who reported the case to the master, who was angry at the servant whom he had forgiven from his debts. The master then sent the servant to be punished even more and demanded from him to be punished according to his original debts, where he would remain in prison and suffered whatever fate that was originally intended for him.

In this parable, the master is the Lord our God, while the servants represent each and every one of us, God’s people. And indeed, all of us have great debts that we owe to the Lord, and this debt is none other than the multitudes of our sins, all the wickedness we have committed in life. And as the master had had mercy on the servant, forgiving him the entirety of his huge debt, so has our Lord forgiven us the great burden of the multitudes of our sins, because He loves each and every one of us.

Yet, if we refuse to forgive others, and choose instead to be obstinate and succumbing to our ego, placing ourselves ahead of the others, trying to satisfy our desires and wants, keeping anger and hatred stoked against our brethren, then we will end up being the same as the servant who had been forgiven and yet refused to forgive his fellow servant.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all spend some time to reflect on this, even as we remember how we have treated each other all these while. Let us think about all the times we have been angry against our brothers and sisters over various matters, be it over money, over other forms of worldly possessions, over fame, influence, glory and many other things that we consider to be precious. Yet, despite all of our anger, hatred, jealousy and bitterness, do we realise that all the things that made us to be angry, to be filled with hatred, jealousy and bitterness, are nothing to the extent of our sins against the Lord?

Do we realise that our faults against each other are but like a pinch of sand amidst the entire huge desert, or like a small cup of water against the entirety of the world’s oceans, representing all the faults, mistakes, all of our shortcomings and the debts of disobedience that we owe the Lord our God? And yet, He forgave us our sins, while He could have just willed us to be destroyed and annihilated for our sins.

And at the same time, He forgave us through the most loving and selfless acts of all time, by His assumption of the human flesh, becoming one like us, so that through the Divine Word made Man, Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, He died on the cross for us, bearing the heavy burdens of our sins and trespasses upon Himself, so that we may not perish because of those sins, but live in the renewed grace of God, which He willingly bestows on those who repent from their sins and desire to be reconciled with Him.

Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, the cross is the ultimate price which the Lord had paid for our sake, out of His everlasting love for us, His mercy and compassion for us sinners. If He had forgiven our sins, so great and so terrible they were, then should we not have done the same as well to our fellow brothers and sisters? Shall we not forgive those who have wronged us, because ultimately we ourselves may have wronged them?

Let us all, as Christians, truly mean it whenever we pray the Lord’s Prayer, and not just utter the words without truly understanding, appreciating and meaning them. Do we mean it when we pray to the Lord, asking Him to ‘forgive us our trespasses, just as we forgive those who trespassed against us?’ We often focus too much on the first half, expecting to be forgiven from our sins, and yet, we forget to do what is necessary in the first place.

In that prayer of supplication to God, it is clear that we ourselves must first forgive those who have slighted and wronged us, before we are even worthy to be forgiven from our own sins. Let us all not walk in the same path as the servant who refused to forgive the other servant while he himself had been forgiven. Let us all instead take up the challenge to become true Christians in spirit and in deed, by being forgiving, merciful and compassionate towards one another in all things.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to guide us in our lives, that we may be ever like Him, loving, compassionate and ever ready to forgive those who desire to change their ways and repent from their sins. May God be with us all in our endeavours. Amen.

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