In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul declares, “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). This sacrificial act of love for us while we were captives of disobedience is what affected our redemption and shows how ridiculously extravagant God’s mercy is towards us. Having enjoyed God’s mercies, albeit unmerited, we are under every obligation to show mercy to others. This is exactly what the Readings at the liturgy this weekend set out to inculcate in us.
In the First Reading, Sirach instructs us to forgive our neighbor’s injustice so that we too may be forgiven and have our prayers answered by God. The inspired author asks rhetorically, “Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself, can he seek pardon for his own sins?” Holding a grudge against another makes it extremely difficult for our sins to be forgiven and our prayers to be answered by God. The measure we give out is the measure we should expect to receive.
The last verse of the First Reading instructs us to think of the Commandments of God and hate not our neighbor, to remember the Covenant with the most high, and overlook faults against us. This statement is deeper and more consequential than it looks at a first glance. By this statement, the divinely inspired author of the First Reading makes the forgiveness of the faults of one’s neighbor, not only an ethical counsel, but in fact a Covenant obligation. Faithfulness to the Covenant requires the willingness to forgive the sins of others.
We do not need to be told that forgiveness is easier preached than practiced. We are well aware of how difficult it is to forgive sins against us, especially when they are committed by persons we love, respect or trust. It is also difficult to forgive sins when we see no concrete guarantee that the offense for which we are solicited to grant remission will not be repeated. It is even more difficult when we have judged that the beneficiary of our mercy is undeserving of our forgiveness. These ideas must have been what was running through Simon Peter’s mind when he approached Jesus to inquire about how often he was required to forgive in order to ensure faithfulness to the Covenant. Notice that Peter’s question came immediately after Jesus taught His disciples on the indispensability of ecclesiastical unity and even gave them clear and practicable steps for conflict resolution. Peter wanted to know the minimum requirements that would ensure that he was “Kingdom compliant.” This is a verifiable problem among Christians even in our time: the tendency to be minimalist in our relationship with God. While God has given us His only begotten Son, we often seek to know the minimum amount of love we can off er Him that will still guarantee our stake in His kingdom. Jesus’ response essentially conferred not only perfection but also limitlessness to forgiveness.
We who have been undeserving beneficiaries of God’s incomprehensible mercy are sometimes culprits in choosing who and how often to forgive. The Readings at the Liturgy this weekend invite us to forgive everyone and always because we ourselves have been forgiven and continue to be forgiven even greater guilt. May Jesus grant us the Grace to be more like Him, forgiving even those who seem undeserving of our mercy.
Please be kind and may God bless you.
Fr. ManassehBACK TO LIST