Sunday, 13 September 2020 : Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday’s Scripture readings all spoke very strongly and firmly on one topic, that is forgiveness. As Christians, forgiveness is a very important aspect of our faith, and we are all called to forgive one another generously, to let go of the anger and hatred in our hearts, to be forgiving just as the Lord, our God is rich in mercy and forgives generously.

The Lord Jesus in our Gospel passage today spoke very firmly on this matter when St. Peter asked Him, ‘Lord, how many times must I forgive the faults of my brother or sister?’ And the Lord answered to his suggestion of seven times, with an even greater number, of seventy-seven times, or in another, seventy times seven times. The use of the number seven here is symbolic and does not literally mean that we must forgive exactly seven, seventy-seven, or seventy times seven times.

In fact, the number seven is a frequently used number throughout the Scriptures, as the symbolic number of ‘perfection’, and many things associated with God number in seven, such as the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven Sacraments of the Church, the seven Holy Archangels ministering in the presence of God, the seven Spirits of God in the visions, among others. That is why the use of seventy-seven or seventy times seven, represent the ‘perfection’ of forgiveness.

What does it mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that we must learn how to forgive without end, forgive unconditionally, forgive without being transactional and to forgive with all of our hearts, with all of our whole being. Forgiveness is something that is very difficult and it is something that many people find very difficult to do, but it is what each and every one of us as Christians are called to do.

Why is that so? That is because to forgive means that we learn to let go of our ego and pride, of our hatred and perhaps jealousy, among other things. Many of us cannot forgive because we cannot find it in ourselves to do all these, and more often than not, it is our ego and pride that are the greatest barriers in preventing us from forgiving others. And we must know, brothers and sisters in Christ, by remembering again today’s Scripture readings, particularly the Gospel parable, that unless we forgive others, how can we expect to be forgiven ourselves?

In that parable, the Lord used the example of a great lord and master who had many servants, some of whom were indebted to him. And in that occasion, a servant who owed the master a very large sum could not pay his due, and therefore was to be punished and to suffer until he could return all that he had owed his master. He begged his master to give him more time to pay off his debt, for mercy and compassion.

The master who saw his pleas for mercy was moved and decided to forgive that servant’s entire debt, a sum of ten thousand pieces of gold, a very considerable sum. It was truly very generous act by the master, and the servant was free to go, free from all of his debts. And then, almost immediately we heard how that very same servant threatened another servant who owed him some money, a much, much smaller sum of a hundred pieces of silver.

The symbolic comparison between the cases could not have been clearer, with the other servant’s debt being represented with a far smaller sum and also in silver, a far less worthy and valuable, although still precious, metal and commodity at that time as it is today. The contrast was also made between the master’s great generosity and willingness to forgive, even the huge amount of debt, and the ungrateful servant’s insistence to persecute his fellow servant for a far smaller debt.

Through all of that, the Lord gave us all in fact, a very stern reminder that we must not be like that ungrateful servant, who had been forgiven his massive debt only then to persecute and refusing to forgive his own fellow servants who owed him a far smaller sum. Using this parable, the Lord showed the comparison between the mercy of the master, representing the Lord Himself, and the lack of mercy and compassion showed by the ungrateful servant, representing us mankind.

God forgave us our sins, even though they were numerous, terrible and wicked, and He wanted to forgive us all those faults and shortcomings, extending His most generous mercy and compassion to all of us, at all times. However, He has not showed us this mercy only for us to take revenge and to persecute our brethren because of their debts and faults against us. And we must also not forget that each and every one of us ourselves also had faults and mistakes against each other.

That is why, before we become angry against others, before we judge others and persecute others, thinking that we have the right to do so, or that we are better and superior against them, we must reflect on these readings we have heard today. We must wake up, brothers and sisters! Wake up and realise just how fortunate we are to have such a merciful and loving God. For every single one of our innumerable and terrible sins, we could have been cast to eternal suffering and destruction, if not for God’s enduring love and mercy for us.

And yet, we are not appreciative of this, we do not thank God as we should have done, and we failed to do what He has asked to do, that is to be merciful and loving as He Himself had done. We are being judgmental and biased to our fellow brothers and sisters, exacting revenge and held contempt and hatred for one another, and we refuse to forgive when we can do so, preferring to hold on to that anger and desire in our hearts and in our minds to satisfy our own ego and our own personal agenda.

Let us then do not forget that by whatever standards we have judged others, be angry on others, be unforgiving on others, then we will also be judged by those same standards. And it is not just that others will judge us in the same way, for as I said earlier, all of us have faults and mistakes, shortcomings and failures, and none of us are perfect, and if we are to hold others accountable for theirs, we shall be held accountable for ours too. We must then not forget just how even much more shortcomings that we owe the Lord.

This has been very clearly shown and summarised by the master in the parable told by Jesus, and how he has forgiven the immense debt of the ungrateful servant, only for that servant to hold a double standard and attack his own poor fellow brother, and thus, in the end, he was held accountable for his original debts, not being forgiven anymore for he himself did not show mercy when he should have.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as Christians, we all truly have great challenges ahead of us, considering how we have been called to live, that is to love when we ourselves have not been loved, to forgive others especially those who hurt us and made our lives difficult, even when they themselves have not forgiven us. The challenge for us is to dare to be different from the world, that when the world champions individualism and the ego of the self, we dare to break free from that, and seek instead to love and show genuine care for others, even to those who have hurt us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the question is, are we willing and able to humble ourselves to forgive generously and sincerely? As I said earlier, ego and pride are the greatest obstacles in the path to sincere forgiveness, and no true forgiveness will come forth unless we remove these burdens and obstacles from our hearts and minds alike. God Himself has forgiven us so generously, showing us His love despite the multitudes of times we have betrayed and abandoned Him. Can we forgive others just as how God has forgiven us?

The prophet Sirach echoed this again in our first reading passage today, that grudge and wrath are the things that are abominations in our lives, and these lead us deeper and deeper into sin, for grudge and wrath ultimately stemmed from our pride and ego, and our refusal to let go of these, that when we feel hurt, we hold grudge and are angry against our fellow men. Unless we get rid from ourselves all these, we cannot truly be God’s holy and devout people.

And lastly, a very good reminder from St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans, in our second reading today is perhaps a very important reminder and also suggestion on how we can lead a holier existence in God from now on. He elaborated that no one lives in this world for himself or herself, but rather one lives for God. And as long as we remember this fact, and also remember God’s love and mercy for us, then we will be able to resist the temptations to be angry against others, and to be willing to forgive one another.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect carefully on what we have heard in the Scriptures today, and let us all discern what we can do from now on to live faithfully in accordance with the Lord’s path, to be inspiration and good example for one another, in being loving and forgiving just as the Lord, our loving Master and Father had done for us. Let us remember His love and mercy each and every moments of our lives, and trust in Him with great faith, now and always.

O most loving and merciful God, our loving Father and Creator, the Divine Mercy, have mercy on us sinners and forgive us our sins, and help us all to be able to forgive each other our mistakes and sins to each other too. Help us to be charitable and to be compassionate, to be generous with love and mercy whenever we are able to. Have mercy on us and on the whole world, forgive us and bring us into Your everlasting glory. Amen.