September 13, 2020 – 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/091320.cfm)
“To err is human, to forgive is divine.” Easy for us to say these words at times to make excuses for our wrongdoings and to ask forgiveness for our mistakes. However, we also say same words of excuse to refuse forgiveness to those who have wronged and hurt us. “What can I do, I’m only human.” “Pasensya lang, tao lang po.” These words in fact describe not only our human frailty but also our difficulties of forgiving others. Perhaps asking forgiveness is much easier than giving forgiveness. But nevertheless to forgive is indeed difficult, especially whenever it is associated with “forgive and forget”.
When his disciples asked Jesus how often should we forgive those who have sinned against us, they are just expressing our difficulties in practicing and upholding the value of forgiveness in our lives. Yes, like the disciples we see the value of forgiveness in our lives but we also know how frustrating forgiveness is and can be. In response to this, somehow Jesus in our gospel teaches and offers us something more about forgiveness.
When he said “not seven times but seventy-seven,” Jesus is telling us to forgive indefinitely. Forgiving others then is not about numbers (counting faults, sins, mistakes and forgiveness) but all about sharing – GIVING your compassion and forgiveness (awa at patawad) without counting the cost or prize. Meaning, though human it is for us to err and to forgive is divine, nevertheless it is also human to forgive. Frail human as we are, we CAN also forgive and be forgiving of others. Difficult and frustrating it may be, we can humanely and divinely give and share forgiveness with one another.
In our parable today about “the forgiven yet unforgiving servant,” Jesus is also teaching us that forgiveness is more than just “forgive and forget”. For Jesus, forgiveness is all about settling account, paying back, being patient, and regaining trust and respect. Meaning to forgive is not about forgetting but all about evaluating, i.e. to put value and importance to the action-done, the experience-happened and the relationship-built. In other words, Bigyang halaga at hinidi binabaliwala lamang. So, to forgive is then not about forgetting but rather about remembering – to put value on the whole experience of reconciliation from mistakes as part/member of ones life. It is a decision to give value, importance and responsibility to your action, experience and relationship. And not to get out, get rid, and get away from our own mess, but to give God, each other and yourself another chance to grow and live life. For instance, the master forgave the servant because the master gives value and respect to the mercy-asked, promised-made and the relationship-renewed between him and the servant. However the same forgiven servant was unforgiving because he did not value and respect his fellow servant. That is why to forgive is also for both the aggrieved and aggressor to remember the wrongdoings-done, lessons-learned & restored trust from the mistake. Thus forgiving is about remembering for the sake of healing while forgetting the resentment.
Above all, our gospel today directs us to “Be forgiving as we are as we have been forgiven by God”. Let our reason then for forgiving others should be not ourselves (just to feel good) or be others (just to appease them) but be God, who forgives and loves us first and always. Forgive then not for our’s or other’s sake but for God’s sake, as Paul reminds us today that we live and die not for oneself but for God. Forgiveness is God’s grace we received and ought to be shared to others. Let our forgiveness be our offering of gratitude for God’s mercy and forgiveness – in thanksgiving for being ourselves forgiven.
In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus taught us to ask our Father to “Forgive us AS (same way as) we forgive those who have sinned against us”. This is our cry to the Father to give us another chance in life as we try our best to give ourselves and other’s another chance also in life. Yes, forgiveness is divinely-granted but also humanly-shared for God, not to be forgotten but be remembered for its value in life.
Pandemic times make us also conscious not only of the mess, struggles and challenges we are in, but also our own mistakes, shortcomings and wrong-doings in life. We realize that we also need not only God’s love, protection and guidance but also His forgiveness and mercy at this time as well. And we can fully enjoy all His graces by also being humanly and divinely enough forgiving and loving to those who have wronged, failed, and hurt us. In other words, we are mercifully forgiven by our being forgiving….. we are loved by our loving.
Human as we are, yet are blessed and forgiven, may we be and ought to be for God’s sake forgiving to others especially to those who are needing of His compassion and mercy at this time. So be it. Amen.
By Fr. Aphelie Mario Masangcay, CSsR (a former Filipino Redemptorist Missionary for Filipino Migrants in South Korea who, due to immune compromised diabetic condition, stationed back home in the Philippines for now).