Finding Strength and Freedom in Forgiveness 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time: September 17, 2017

 

Forgiving is not nearly as much fun as being forgiven. When we have

hurt another person, we are usually in a hurry to be forgiven. After doing something that we are ashamed of, we want to feel good about

ourselves again.

 

But when we are the ones who have been hurt we are often not in a rush

to forgive. In the first readings today from Sirach, we read, “Wrath and anger are hurtful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight.” It almost seems that we often enjoy being victims. It might be about getting even. You hurt me by your words and actions, and so now I hurt you by withholding my forgiveness, and so make you a victim too. If I am going to be miserable

so are you.

This may have been why Peter approached Jesus and asked how many times he had to forgive someone.

Jesus replies with a parable: The first debtor in the parable owed the Master a huge amount and the Master is on

the verge of selling him, his wife, his children, and all his property in payment. The debtor pleaded with the Master.

The Master’s compassion went so far as to forgive the whole loan.

 

Then the first debtor ran into a fellow debtor, who owes him a smaller amount. What we expect the man to do is to extend the Master’s generous forgiveness to the second debtor. But he doesn't do that. Instead he has him thrown

into prison. All the other servants were deeply disturbed at what they saw, they went to the Master.

The Master became furious, “Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant as I had on you?”

 

Another parable, this one is about Buddha:  A bandit once threatened Buddha with death. Buddha, seeing the sharp sword, asked the bandit if he would be good enough to grant him a dying wish. "Cut off the branch of that tree",

he asked. With a single slash of the sword, the bandit cut it down. "What now?" asked the bandit.

 

"Put it back again", said the wise man. The bandit laughed. The wise man said: "You must be crazy to think that

you are mighty because you can wound and destroy. That is the task of children. The mighty know how to create

and heal."

 

We often think of strength in this world as control. I can make this happen. I can keep that from happening.

I can make you pay for your sins. I can put you in jail so you cannot do that to me or anyone else ever again.

Many think this is real power. But it is not.

 

A greater strength is found in freedom. I don't have to control you. You can wound me 7 times 70 times but you

can't take away my freedom to forgive you. You can't force me to become like you. Whether you pay for your

sins or not, I refuse to let you make me into a victim of your wrath or greed or envy. This is heavenly power.

When Jesus tells the paralytic, "Get up, pick up your mat and go home", he is the Son of God acting "with authority

on earth to forgive sins." This is Jesus praying on the cross, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing."

 

In conclusion, it is the work of the weak to be violent and hurtful and selfish. Only a really great person, like the

Master in the Gospel parable, is strong enough to go above and beyond the call of duty, to forgive the whole debt, without even being asked. He saw something generous he could do, and so he did it. If we are going to follow his example, we will need to be a lot stronger and more generous, and give up pretending to be victims. Amen.

 

Fr. Terry Hazel

Sunday Readings
Sirach 27:30—28:7

Forgive your neighbor the wrong done to you; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.

 

Romans 14:7–9

For this is why Christ died and came to life, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

 

Matthew 18:21–35

[Jesus said,] “Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?”