Homily Twenty-Fourth Sunday Year A: Michael Ufok Udoekpo· Sir 27:30–28:7
· Rom 14:7-9
· Matt 18:21-35
Our God is Slow to Anger, Rich in Love, Mercy and Compassion!
In the Book of Psalms, according Saint Ambrose:“There is a profit for all, with healing power for salvation. There is instruction from history, teaching from the law, prediction from prophecy, chastisement from denunciation, persuasion for moral preaching. All who read it may find the cure for their own individual failings. All with eyes to see can discover in it a complete gymnasium for the soul, a stadium for all the virtues, equipped for every kind of exercise; it is for each to choose the kind he judges best to help him gain the prize.”
Today’s psalm 103 “the Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion” is available for us. It captures the essence of today’s worship and scriptural reflection on the nature of God, sin and sinner, forgiveness and reconciliation, divine virtues, especially of charity, love and care.If God’s nature, going back to the Book of Exodus 34:6-7(cf. Jonah, Ps 85, Micah), is mercy, kindness, forgiveness, infinite love, boundless charity, unlimited care, throughout the history of human salvation, every generation, including today’s generation, is expected to imitate God whose image they are made of.
The generation of Ben Sira of today’s first reading, Book of Sirach, a wisdom book, is aware of the usual human problems, such as appetite for vengeance, injustices, debts, loans, anger against one’s neighbor, and the difficulty in forgiving those who may have offended us. Or those, that God may have forgiven, in a big way! But, the good news is that, Ben Sira is wise and is aware of the very nature of God, who is mercy, love, joy , care and compassionate throughout the history of God's dealings with the humans. Ben Sira rightly admonish his audience saying: “forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.” He rhetorically ask, “Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord? Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself, can he seek pardon for his on sins... He went on to say, ‘remember the Most High’s covenant, and overlooks faults.”Similarly, the generation of Christ and his disciples is aware of these human problems, as well (appetite for vengeance, injustices, hatreds, violence, debts, loans, anger against one’s neighbor, and the difficulty in forgiving those who may have offended us, slightly, or those that God may even have forgiven, in a big way), as reflected in today’s Gospel parable, prompted by Peter’s question, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times? Jesus answers, “I say to you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times,” Meaning, infinite numbers of time of forgiveness ! (Matt 18:21-35).
Having proposed unlimited forgiveness, Jesus, God’s incarnate, follows up with a parable, understandable to us. Here is a servant whose huge debt have been forgiven by the king. He is happy and seems to leave with a sense relief. But, the bad news is that he who had been forgiven a huge debt, is unable to forgive his friend, whom he threw into prison, the tiniest fraction of what he had been forgiven of, attracting upon himself, the king’s punishment, that he pays back his huge debt as well!In our daily lives, forgiveness must not have any boundary. It must go beyond seven times, to the divine seventy-seven times. In forgiving, seventy-seven times, it is good to look at the face of God, the face of Jesus, the King of Mercy, whom Pope Francis also sees mercy, love, and compassion in his pontificate! God chose him because he was merciful to him, as expressed in his motto: Miserando atque elegendo. How different would the modern world be if we imitate half of the pastoral approach or the theology of mercy, proposed by Francis, the Pope.
How different would our world be if we take "forgiveness" seriously as well as "reconciliation"? For “where there is no reconciliation or at least hope for reconciliation there cannot be forgiveness in real sense.” As in the case of the wicked servant of today’s gospel parable; he refuses the king’s forgiveness by refusing to reconcile with his friend who owed him a tiny debt.How different would our world be if we all realize that God and the Church can forgive sinners, but they cannot condone evil behavior that causes suffering and injustices to others, offensive to truth, love and charity, or a sinner who chooses to stay in sin!
How different would our planet be if we imitate the forgiving instances Christ, in the Bible, be it in the case of the woman caught in adultery, the case of Matthew the tax collector, the case of Zacchaeus, the case Thomas the doubter, or in instance of the denying Peter!At this Mass and worship, may we acknowledge that we are sinners in need of God’s forgiveness! May we also go out to the whole world, a changing world, and serve where ever we can, as agent of God’s love, boundless charity, mercy, compassion and forgiveness to our neighbors!
1. Have you ever owed or feel indebted and how do you go about it?
2. What lessons have you drawn from today’s parable and scripture passages?
3. How do you help to foster healing and reconciliation in your faith community?
4. Are there moment that you feel unforgiving? And and how often do you reflect on the nature of God and his merciful face? Or Consider yourself forgiven?