24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A
Theme : Forgive as you are forgiven
1st Reading: Sirach 27:30-28:7
Responsorial Psalm : Ps 103
2nd Reading : Romans 14:7-9
Gospel : Matthew 18:21-35
- Have you ever noticed how many action films focus on a hero overcoming a villain?
- For most of the movie, the hero suffers at the hands of the villain, then in the last act, the hero confronts him, and the villain gets what’s been coming to him – maybe in a shoot-out or in a car chase or in hand-to-hand combat!
- Now imagine a different ending.
- Instead of killing the villain, the hero calls the police.
- As they are about to take the villain away, the hero embraces his enemy and speaks words of mercy.
- He commits to visiting the villain in jail and helping his family!
- What do you think of that ending?
- Not sure that would not go down so well at the box office!
- What a pity!
- But it’s because filmmakers understand our human nature very well!
- We seem to wired for getting even!
- If someone hurts us, our instinct is to want to hurt them back!
- We have all been hurt by injustice or harsh words at some stage in our lives.
- In ancient times the way to make up for this was to retaliate with the greatest possible violence, so that those responsible would pay dearly –
- The wrong was returned with added interest!
- Some progress was made with the famous “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” law in Exodus 21
- Now the punishment was proportional to the offence.
- In our first reading today, the author makes if very clear that when we give in to our vengeful instincts, we do not get justice – we simply make things worse!
- In fact, if you listened carefully you would have noticed that the reading is not only just about justice,
- Instead he speaks about mercy and forgiveness too!
- Aware of our OWN sins and failures, the reading gives us some encouragement
- But there is a rider – only when we commit to act with mercy and forgiveness, can we expect mercy and forgiveness from God for our own sins!
- The parable Jesus tells in the Gospel about the reign of God is to show why it is necessary for his disciples to go beyond justice and forgive without limit!
- Forgiving from the heart means complete forgiveness, not grudgingly mumbled forgiveness!
- Unless the disciples of Jesus forgive unreservedly, they face a fate comparable to that of the unforgiving slave who was handed over to the torturers.
- This may seem a bit shocking for us –
- Surely our loving Father would not do this to us?!
- But we should remember that this is not the only time Jesus issues a dire warning about the eternal consequences of our actions and that we will be held accountable for what we do!
- Does this not then cause us to think about how we relate to one another?
- How we treat one another?
- And not only how we treat the stranger, but even our own family and members of our faith community?
- Paul writing to a divided Roman Church, reminds us that if we are living for Jesus, and not for ourselves then
- differences between us will be resolved – we would make sure they were – we would go further than simply justice!
- In our relationships, we must not allow ourselves to be influenced by the merely human or politically correct or expedient!
- Our refusal to forgive others jeopardizes the forgiveness we receive from God!
- And both our modern society and our modern church are in special need of this gift of forgiveness!
- When there is so much anger, division, hatred and mistrust – it is not only justice we need, but forgiveness and mercy too!
- We need to remember, the divine gift of forgiveness we have been given and be willing to share it!
- If we do remember; and we do forgive, then:
- When the credits roll at the close of our lives – people will know they have seen the best action-drama-love story ever!