Life and Freedom in forgiveness

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September 13, 2020 – 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/091320.cfm)

Homily

A friend shared her troubles. There have been nights of anguish and sorrow that she was enduring in the past months. The difficult situation of the lockdown and the movement and work restrictions in the City added to her emotional suffering and even heightened the way she’s handling her troubles. There’s so much anger, hatred and self-blame in her heart. Something has triggered her painful memory of the past that relived the physical and emotional abuse she suffered from her father. That painful memory brought fresh anguish and sorrow, as well as those feelings of anger, hatred and self-blame.

These emotional suffering became episodes of attacks to the point of having sleepless nights and empty feelings during the day. As she said, she could not find a way on how to reconcile things, find peace and realize forgiveness. Her traumatic memory was just too painful to forget.

Though that memory happened in a distant past but it remains fresh in her mind every time she remembers that. Indeed, this happens when a traumatic memory is merely buried in forgetfulness and covered by pretensions that as if nothing had happened. However, not unless that past of horror is accepted, embraced, confronted and be forgiven and not forgotten, only then, a person achieves peace and reconciliation.

How important really then, is forgiveness? Is it possible at all to forgive without forgetting?

This Sunday’s Gospel, the response of Jesus to the question of Peter regarding the number of times to forgive others and the parable he gave to his disciples tell us of God’s invitation to forgive and its important in the way we live our life as Christians and in our desire to live in freedom.

We have heard Peter how he asked Jesus about how many times he should forgive. For the Jews a righteous man should forgive those who have hurt them for four times. However, Peter exceeded that and made it to seven. He thought he has more than enough. Nevertheless, Jesus responded to him that not just seven times but seventy seven times. The number actually does not matter. What Jesus is saying is that, forgiveness has no limit.

Why is that? Why forgive without limit? It is even so difficult to forgive even once especially when the person who hurt us is someone we love and someone we trust. As what my friends shared to me, most of our pains are sometimes rooted from our relationships especially when we are betrayed or abused or deceived by a family member or friends.

The pain and suffering that come from those broken relationships create deep wounds in us. And will forgiveness be possible then? Yes, it is. And forgiveness will always be a call for each of us.

Hence, unless we find forgiveness in our hearts that begins with accepting and embracing those painful experiences and go on with life, then, we will not be free.

Remember, forgiveness will make us free. It will not erase the scar of betrayal or of abuse or of deceit in our life but we will be able to stand up, to wipe our tears and go on with life.

Forgiveness then is not about telling the person, that what he/she did was okay and pretend as if nothing happens. No! Forgiveness is to heal our wounded heart that will make us say to the person, “I forgive you not because of who you are but because of who I am.” This is what the Dalai Lama said.  This means that to forgive is not about to forget. To forgive is not to allow that painful memory to hurt us again in the present and to be freed from grip of violence.

Forgiveness, then, also is not really for the person who hurt us or those who caused us the pain but rather it is all about us. The pain that we endure will lead us to feelings of anger, hatred and bitterness.  When we linger to these they will lead us to a heart that seeks revenge. This will become our tendency from our belief that by hurting the person back, our anger and hatred will be satisfied. But then, we are wrong because anger and hatred will never be satisfied by violence. Violence will only make us angrier, hateful and bitter person. The more we linger to our pain, anger and hate; they become a cycle that will never end. The Book from Sirach reminds us about this, that wrath and anger are hateful things that we sinners love to hug them tight.

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This is how a person can create a cycle of violence, of revenge, of anger and hatred mostly directed towards ourselves. We will become prisoner of our own pain. All of these will control our lives, our thoughts and actions. We will never be free. We will begin to become suspicious to our other relationships. We will be afraid of trusting others, of loving others again and even ourselves. We are fearful because we linger to that pain thinking that other people might do it again to us. Hence, the cycle begins.

This, indeed, is the attitude of an unforgiving person portrayed by Jesus in the parable. The person who was all cleared by the king from his debts became unforgiving and unkind to his fellow servants. Despite the kindness and the forgiveness shown by the king to him, he turned to be filled with hatred and resentment towards those who were indebted to him. He was violent, vicious and hateful. Thus, while causing pain and damage to others because of being unforgiving, he too later on was punished and suffered more.

This is what Jesus is saying to us now and he wants us to forgive many times because a single un-forgiveness will only make us prisoner of our own pain and hatred. Jesus wants us to be free and not prisoners of anger, hatred, and bitterness or of violence. Jesus invites us to find life and freedom in forgiveness.

In this way, we may always find reconciliation with God and with those who have hurt us so that in return, we too shall also be forgiven by those we hurt in one way or in many ways. Hinaut pa.

Jom Baring, CSsR

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