We Proclaim Forgiveness

 

September 13, 2020

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Genesis 50:15-21

Psalm 103:1-14

Romans 14:9-12

Matthew 18:21-35

 

Bishop Ariel Santos

 

 

We are still in quarantine. We are a people of hope. Covid may be among us but God is with us.  Greater is He who’s in us than the virus that is in the world.  Never lose that hope; never give up because the kingdom of God goes on and will be here long after the virus is gone.  

 

In today’s gospel, Peter asked Jesus, “How often should I forgive my brother who sins against me?”    He thought the answer of seventy times was already being generous. Jesus said, “I say not seven times but up to seventy times seven.”  This is not 490 times but it means forgiveness with no limit.

 

To illustrate the point, Jesus shared with him a parable about unlimited forgiveness.   A slave of the king owed him a ridiculous debt – ten thousand talents.  One talent is equivalent to twenty-years’ worth of labor. Ten thousand talents will make for 200 thousand years. The point of Jesus is to illustrate that God's mercy and goodness to us is infinite.  The slave was forgiven greatly but he turns around and sees his fellow slave who owed him 100 days wages. He was angry because he can’t pay and he couldn’t pardon him so he sent him to jail until he could pay his debt.     Jesus said, "My Father will do the same to you, if you don’t forgive."

 

Don't misinterpret the parable. Get the point not what is non-essential or unimportant.   Why did Jesus tell us the parable?  It is because He was trying to reinforce what He said about “us” receiving a great amount of pardon, therefore, we should also forgive those who sin against us.  The offense of those who sin against us can never compare to what God has granted us as pardon.  Some have built doctrines on what parables don't teach. If we focus on or are distracted by the peripherals, we will miss God.

 

In the story about the persistent widow, did Jesus grant her wish because He couldn’t stand her anymore? Is God like this?  No, the point is that God is not a judge, but we should be like the widow.  In the parable of the shrewd manager who found out that a steward was squandering his money so he cheated and became dishonest because he was thinking of his future, Jesus is trying to say for us to have foresight and not to be dishonest.

 

Similarly, the Pharisees missed the point of Christ's good works. Instead of seeing God's work, the salvation on Sabbath, they saw the law - its wrong application.  Instead of preservation of life, they saw the legalistic adherence to the law.   

 

In the parable of the unforgiving servant, we have two points that we should not miss.  One: we’ve been infinitely forgiven.  Psalm 103:10 says that God has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. Psalm 130:3-4 says that if the Lord kept a record of sins, who could stand? Who would be left?  But God doesn’t do this for it says, “You forgive us, so You are  respected."  1Corinthians 13:5 says that God doesn’t keep a record of wrongs. 2 Corinthians 5:19 says that God does not count our sins against us.  When God pronounces forgiveness, He does not retract His pardon for us.

 

A theologian was asked in one of his seminars, “Why does God kill?”  His answer was, “God kills, but we cannot.”  He asks, “Who gives life?” and continues, “It is God so He has a right to take it.”  He asked the people, “Do you give life to anyone?”  He then said, “No, so you don’t have a right to kill.”  Jesus tells us in Scriptures, “Be as Your Father because you were created in His likeness.”  Should we say that if we were created in His likeness, then we can kill people?  This is not true for God is not One who would tell us, “Do as I say, don’t do as I do.”   People who looked to us will do according to what they see us do. 

 

Jesus reveals who our Father is and He reminds us to go back to His likeness.  Jesus came to this world to reveal who God is.  During the olden times, they killed in the name of God because they thought God commanded them to kill their enemies.  Jesus is saying to us, “This is not God our Father.  God is compassionate.”  Why did Jesus reveal His Father?  It is because we were created in His likeness and He is reminding us that we should be like Him. Be holy just as the Father is holy; be perfect just as the Father is perfect.

 

We have been forgiven much thus it leads us to the second point of the parable:  we should also forgive without limits because our Father forgives without limits.   God loves us; therefore, we are to love our brother.   In all three readings, it talked about our brother – love our brother; forgive our brother.  This lingering question in the parable is, “Will our Father do the same if we don’t forgive?”  He is not like the judge retracting a pardon.  He is a judge pardoning infinitely and He is not an Indian-giver. This does not mean that if we have unforgiveness in our hearts or if we sin, there are no consequences.  God does not punish us for our sins but our sins have consequences.  It breaks His heart when we sin because sin destroys us.  

 

Judgment is not retributive, not punitive but consequential.   It is not God’s judgment but our own actions bring unfavorable results.  If we disobey God and it has its consequences, it is our own doing.  It is our own actions that bring unfavorable results.  If we get hooked on drugs, it will take its toll on body. This is not God’s doing but our own.  If one drinks and drives and get into an accident, it is the consequence of foolish disobedience, not punishment or judgment from God.  Again, I remind us that God has not dealt with us according to our sins, and He doesn’t count or keep a record of our wrong doings. God’s will for us is fullness of life and He gives the prescription:  to forgive

 

I received this message on a Japanese research which could give us a guide but not for condemnation.  One, acidity is not only caused by food or drink, but more by stress.  Second, hypertension is not only caused by too much consumption of salty foods, but mainly by unhealthy emotions. Third, asthma is not only because of the disruption of oxygen supply to the lungs; often, negative feelings make lungs unstable.  Fourth, diabetes is not only because of too much consumption of glucose, but selfish and stubborn attitude that disrupts the function of the pancreas.  The research says that the true cause of any disease is: spiritual - 50%; psychological - 25%; social - 15%; and physical - 10%.  

 

Negative emotions (bitterness, hatred, and unforgiveness) are toxic.  They kill the body.  According to John Hopkins’ research, unforgiveness can cause cancer and leads to death.  Holding on to anger results in numerous changes in the heart rate, blood pressure, and immune response.  These changes increase the risk of depression, heart disease, and diabetes among other conditions.  Other sources say that unforgiveness, bitterness and grudges also harm our self-esteem, affect our sexual health and social relationships.

 

Negativity is also contagious.   Unforgiveness is empowering somebody else to destroy us. We are allowing them to affect our physical, social, emotional and mental health.  When we are angry, we think we are in control, but no, we are being controlled.  It is deceitfully making s us feel that we are in control but actually, it is the opposite.  Another research says that letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for happiness.

 

Heed the voice of God, His Word.  When Jesus first appeared to His disciples, He said, “Peace be with you!”  It is saying, “Don’t worry about you betraying or denying Me or abandoning Me.  I forgive all of you.”  He orders us that we should also forgive. The first order of the day is to forgive the sins of anyone.

 

These days the word “unli” is so common.  Unli- text; unli-rice; unli-calls. Why don’t we trend unli-forgiveness?  Christians can unli-forgive. Let us make it happen because this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.

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