“The Family of God: Forgiving as We’ve Been Forgiven”
September 17, 2017
The Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Genesis 50: 15 – 21 / Psalm 103: 1-3; 8-13
Romans 14: 9 - 12 / Matthew 18: 21 - 35
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
The Family of God has been part of our theme for Ordinary Time. We want to emphasize what the family of God is supposed to be, how it is supposed to act, and who it is supposed to be like.
Today, based on the gospel, the theme is: the Family of God: Forgiving as We’ve Been Forgiven. In the parable, it shows how incredibly impossible the sin of the offender is against his master, which demonstrates our sin, and how much God pardons our sins. His grace is greater than our sin, and how, that we, as we are offended, with less offenses are supposed to forgive our brother. The gospel ends today saying that we need to forgive our brother with all our heart.
During our days in Christian Life Fellowship, we were strong into witnessing. Our witnessing is approaching a stranger and preaching and sharing the gospel. One of the more popular approaches was called: The Four Spiritual Laws. The first law says the sin separates us from God. I stand before here to say to you that this is not true. Sin does not separate us from God. St. Paul said in Romans 8:38-39 says, “ For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Death is like sin on steroids. Sin, when it is full grown, leads to death. If death is the advance full-blown state of sin, and this cannot separate us from God, what more the small sin?
We cannot get away from the love of God. The Psalmist says, “If I climb to the mountain, You are there. If I swim in the ocean, even if I go down to Sheol, You are there.” God is everywhere and He is bigger than the eternal space. He fills all in all. One of His Old Testament names is Jehovah Shamah, meaning God is everywhere. God proved it, through Jesus Christ, that He is in hell. He would go after His lost sheep, even in hell, and He released and set the captives free. Your worst sin and the lowest place that you can ever be cannot separate you from the love of God.
Romans 2:4 says that it is God’s kindness which leads to repentance. This makes us not to want to sin anymore. We thought before that our repentance is when we received God’s kindness. It is the opposite because God’s kindness, which is constant and which He always gives to us, leads us to repentance. We are one family, and this is what our Father is, and this is what we are supposed to be like – kind and forgiving.
The point of the gospel today is not judgment, but being like God. He forgives us; He expects us to forgive. If we don't, we cut ourselves from Him and His life. God is immutable; He doesn’t change. He cannot love you more; He cannot love you less because He loves you with all His heart. This is what He commands us to do also. He doesn’t sing, “I love you more today than yesterday,” because His love is always one hundred percent. He does not forgive today, and not forgive tomorrow. He doesn’t command us something that He does not do. If He tells us to forgive seventy times seventy, that is what He does to us, too. He doesn’t count men’s sins against them. God is love and God does not keep a record of wrongs.
What about judgment? What about judgment from a merciful God? Judgment from the God of justice? John 3:17 says, “God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world or condemn, but that the world may be saved through Him.” God doesn’t simply judge, but He saves. Jesus did not come to judge, but to save and to have mercy.
1John 1:9, “God is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. “ Faithful in forgiving; just in forgiving. God forgives and His forgiveness is justice. Don’t try to make His justice fit into your understanding or idea of justice. His ways are higher. Jesus said, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” Everlasting and eternal is hard to comprehend because His ways are higher than our ways. The vastness of space – its beginning or end - is beyond our comprehension. God has no beginning, so we ask, “Where did He come from?” God has no end. We cannot fathom these things, and we cannot comprehend it because His ways are higher. God gives us everlasting love, but we put limits to it by judging.
For example, can the life of a rapist, a murderer be forgiven by God? Yes, because God is a God of everlasting love and mercy. God will forgive the one who offends another person. Romans 14:4 says, “Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” The love of God is “scandalous.”
The Old Testament talks about Joseph forgiving his brothers after he was sold by his brothers to be a slave and was imprisoned. Joseph experienced misery because of what his brothers did to him. Joseph is a type of Jesus. His story is told in the Old Testament so that we can have an idea of the heart of Jesus in the person of Joseph. Joseph told his brothers, “Do not be afraid.” Can we hear Jesus saying this to us? Joseph comforted his brothers, just like the Holy Spirit comforts us. Joseph spoke kindly to them. And on top of this, Joseph provided for his brothers.
We ask, “Is this justice?” According to the Bible, it is; it is the heart of God. Even if we sin against God, we still can be blessed. When God told Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruit of the tree, it was because IT will kill them. Their disobedience will kill them, and it is not God who will do it. Their disobedience will cause them to die. Sin is its own punishment; you rot away because of it. It is unnatural as a child of God. It is a foreign object that saps the life out of you. It leads to death as it cuts you off from the life of God.
God’s love is constant to us, but why are we alienated? Colossians 1:21, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.” Once we sin, we become guilty because we know God’s love for us. God’s love does not change; it is the alienation of our minds that causes us to doubt.
Psalm 40:11-12a says, “You, O Lord, will not withhold Your compassion from me; Your lovingkindness and Your truth will continually preserve me. 12 For evils beyond number have surrounded me; My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to see.” Our sin overtakes us and we are not able to see. We need to stay away from sin because sin blinds us. Forget none of His benefits. We need to renew our minds so that we can prove the will of God. The will of God is that which is good for us and perfect and acceptable. His plans for us is for welfare, not for calamity. He doesn’t want to punish us. God doesn’t like sin because of what it does to us. He is not offended by sin, but He doesn’t like it because of what it does to our relationship with Him.
God give justice to the oppressed and He gives justice to the oppressor. It doesn't mean that when God forgives the sinner, He favors them over the one offended by the sinner. He restores both and God gives justice to both the oppressed and the oppressor. Sometimes, we don’t seek justice but revenge. Justice is restoring back what was taken. God restores to one the gift that was taken from him, and restores to the other the likeness of God, which sin takes away from him.
God’s mercy for the offender is the restoration of what was taken from him. Justice for the offender is his restoration. It is the same; God restores both of them. Not only them, but He restores all things. Psalm 103:6 says, “The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.” For the oppressor, Psalm 103:10 says, “God does not deal with us according to our sins nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.” God does not punish us according to the degree of our sins and He has forgiven all because God causes all things to work together for good as it says in Romans 8:28.
Joseph told his brothers, “What you meant for evil, God meant for good.” God turned Joseph’s situation around. He causes it to work for good. If someone has done something to you, and God has turned the situation to favor and to bless you, be thankful, not vengeful. We are a Eucharistic person, always giving thanks. Be content. Sometimes, it is not justice that we want, but revenge. Guard your heart and forgive just like God forgives. In reality, our debt to Him is big as compared to what He is asking us from us in forgiving others.
Forgiveness is not justification of sin. Forgiveness is an expression of love. When God’s shows His mercy upon us, we learn to restore our relationship with Him. We need to continually hear this and be reminded of God’s love and mercy until we get His heart and forgive as He forgives and we are like Him.
This is the whole point of the parable in the first place, the emphasis of the Ordinary Times themes, and because this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.