HOMILY FOR THE 24TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR A.
THEME: It’s Noble to Forgive.
BY: Fr. Uchenna Onyejiuwa.
The unfortunate reality in today’s world is that many people, including intellectuals, have abandoned rationality in human relationships and have become viciously sentimental, which has led to individuals desiring to be feared rather than respected. So preaching about forgiveness to people with this kind of mindset is like asking a man to lower his guard in the face of danger; since being forgiving is sometimes mistaken for weakness. However, today’s liturgy insists that nothing justifies unforgiveness, as it invites us to take its practice seriously if we want to continue to enjoy God’s forgiving mercy.
The message of the first reading is very clear: “Resentment and anger, these are foul things, and both are found with the sinner. He who exacts vengeance will experience the vengeance of the Lord, who keeps strict account of sin. Forgive your neighbour the hurt he does you, and when you pray, your sins will be forgiven. If a man nurses anger against another, can he then demand compassion from the Lord? Showing no pity for a man like himself, can he then plead for his own sins?… Remember the last things, and stop hating, remember dissolution and death, and live by the commandments.” Honestly, the wisdom in this message is unassailable. Even though we acknowledge that it is very difficult to forgive, especially someone whose action(s) ruined one’s life, we cannot in any way justify our desire for revenge in such situations, for it is God who brought man into being according to His purpose that has the right to avenge any attempt at thwarting such purpose. That is why He tells us in Deuteronomy 32:35 “Vengeance is mine” and St. Paul also made reference to it when he warned the Romans against taking revenge in Romans 12:19.
In response to Peter’s question about how often one could forgive a brother who wronged him and be justified to say enough is enough, the lord makes him understand that as far as one breathes one is condemned to forgive, for without it life will be unbearable and brutish. He goes ahead to demonstrate, through a parable, how foolish it is not to forgive a brother or sister who wronged you and concludes with these frightening words: “And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart.” Beloved, it is very easy to see the wickedness of that unforgiving servant in that parable but he is only a reflection of many of us who feel justified to avenge the wrong done to them.
So, my dear friends, we need to pay attention to the admonitions of today’s readings and allow them to influence our actions henceforth. Don’t just forgive because you would need to be forgiven but forgive because it is noble to do so; forgive because it reflects the image of God you bear; forgive because you don’t know tomorrow; forgive because it is what God desires; forgive because it frees you from unnecessary burdens; forgive because it is both physically and spiritually healthy; forgive because it puts you above the offender; forgive because it fosters unity and love; forgive because it is the only way we can coexist peacefully; above all, forgive because your life depends on God’s mercy and forgiveness, without which you expire into dust. May the Almighty God grant you the heart and courage to forgive and bless you with His peace. Peace be with you. (First reading, Eccl. 27:33-28:9; second reading, Rom 14:7-9; gospel, Matt. 18:21-35).
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