Homily of the Apostolic Nuncio
His Grace Archbishop Petar Rajič
Sir 27:30-28:9; Rom 14:7-9; Mt 18:21-35
Mercy and forgiveness are at the very core of our faith, yet how difficult it is to forgive! Some people have a sense of self-righteousness when they have been hurt in their lives, so they feel a need to seek compensation from their wrongdoers. When we have truly been unjustly offended we find it difficult to forget the wrong done to us. “I will forgive but I will not forget” is so often heard today. Humanly speaking, this task of forgiving is very demanding, but even this can be achieved through faith and love. If we believe in God’s mercy and have experienced what it means to be forgiven a great debt, that is, our own personal sins and faults, then perhaps we can conjure up the necessary love and compassion towards other sinners that God has towards us.
This is what Jesus is trying to achieve in us. In today’s Gospel he is teaching us an eternal lesson in forgiveness. Peter started it all by mentioning the topic to Jesus. Peter thought he was being very generous in offering to forgive his brother seven times. Jesus answers by saying that there should be no limits to our forgiveness, that is, we should always be ready to forgive. The only limit in forgiving is that we should forgive without limits. We may ask ourselves: why even forgive at all? The answer is simple: because this is what God does to us and asks us to do towards our brothers and sisters also.
The first man in Jesus’ parable owed a large debt to his king. He bowed down to the earth and pleaded with his master that he be patient with him and give him more time. The king had pity on him, he started feeling the pain of the man’s suffering as his own and he graciously forgave him his debt. It is only those strong in spirit and full of compassion, who are capable of forgiving people large debts and offenses.
However, the same servant did not show pity to the man who owed him a much smaller amount. He rightfully sought what was his and he acted according to the law and justice, but he did this without showing any compassion for the other man’s situation. Once again we can ask: why should we forgive? Because forgiving brings us that much closer to the heart of God. Because a person’s life is worth much more than any debt or argument or sense of righteousness we might have. This is why we should be generous in our forgiving as God is benevolent towards us in pardoning our many sins.
God’s forgiveness is truly liberating. He does not dwell on the past, but rather liberates us of the burden it places on us through his mercy and he gives us the hope and courage we need to look towards the future and all the good we are capable of accomplishing.
If God has forgiven us our debts, we must also forgive those debts others have towards us. Therefore the old teaching remains eternal, a man must forgive in order to be forgiven. Jesus says at another point in the gospel: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy (Mt 5:7).
Forgiving starts with little things in our daily life. It asks of us that we be able to endure people’s bad habits, mood swings, mistakes, personal faults, weaknesses, ignorance, offenses, omissions and other frailties of our human nature. The measure of our forgiveness is at the same time the measure of our love. If we are to be truly loving persons and followers of Christ, then it is imperative that we forgive everyone always. When we make the message of this Sunday’s readings our own rule of life, then the challenges to forgive, which are part of our everyday lives can be met with the help of God’s grace.