Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 20, 2022 — Year C
Readings: 1 Sm 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23 / Ps 103 / 1 Cor 15:45-49 / Lk 6:27-38
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
His advisors, because of his being friendly even to his political enemies, criticized President Abraham Lincoln, and he quickly answered, “Am I not eliminating my enemies by making them my friends?”
Everyone here has, at one time or another, been wounded by someone, or at least we believe we have been hurt or offended. Every one of us carries the scars from just living and the way in which life can be cruel and hurtful at times. Because of this, we can accumulate a tremendous burden of resentments, grudges, hatred, and anger. We all know someone who has nursed a grudge for years, and who is consumed with their anger, justified or not.
Sometimes those wounds are slight, and sometimes serious and extreme, especially if at the hands of someone we love and trust so much. These wounds can be real, and our anger justified.
In today’s gospel Jesus gives us the solution to our anger and wounds. He said, “Be merciful as your Father is merciful.” He asks us to love our enemies and to be good to those who harm and hate us.
An old woman in a village was said to be receiving divine apparitions. The local priest demanded proof of their authenticity. He said, “When God next appears to you, ask Him to tell you my sins, which are known to Him alone. That should be enough evidence.”
The woman returned a month later, and the priest asked if God had appeared to her again. She said He had.
“Did you put the question to Him?”
“And what did He say?”
“He said, ‘Tell your priest: I have forgotten his sins.’”
The key word here is “forgiveness.” To forgive those who wound us and hurt us, no matter how severe those wounds. Forgiveness is at the very core of Christianity and is the most divine thing anyone can do. Forgiving frees us, who are victims of wounds, to go on with our lives. Forgiving does not mean that the wound will disappear, but it will allow you to be able to live with that wound peacefully.
Sometimes we ask ourselves: Isn’t Jesus’ teaching of nonretaliation to evil condoning evil? Perhaps the experience and example of St. Pope John Paul II can provide us a glimpse of an answer. Although the pope had forgiven Mehmet Ali Ağca, the Turkish man who had attempted to assassinate him on May 30, 1981, Ağca remained in jail for some years to atone for his crime. So it is possible to forgive and love an enemy, but justice is still served.
Jesus means for us to struggle through our feelings of righteous anger and resentment, until we find a thread of mercy and forgiveness that breaks the cycle of hatred and anger, or resentment and revenge. The virtue of forgiving can be the result of a long process of recalling the hurtful incident and then letting it go. Another’s action may have been wrong and destructive, but that doesn’t make that person an unforgivable person, no matter what the wrong. We must make the choice to forgive another, despite our feelings to the contrary. The choice truly leads us to freedom, healing, and peace.
The virtue of forgiveness finds its fullest expression in the challenge of Jesus to love our enemies. His very life is an example to all of us of forgiveness, from the very start of His public ministry, to His forgiveness of the thief on the cross.
We are all the recipients of that divine forgiveness, no matter how far any of us has strayed from God. He always gives us a way back to Him and is always ready to forgive us. That is why Pope Francis once said, “God is always willing to give us His forgiveness. It is us who refuse to ask for His forgiveness.”
God touches us in our sinfulness, which is part of our very humanity, and is there to forgive us. God’s forgiveness is the love He has for us, that reaches into the dark spaces of our failings and brokenness, raises us up, and holds us in the palm of His hand until we are healed. The love of God and His willingness to forgive us gradually lead us from our sinful ways to a life of grace and purpose.
This Sunday, Jesus calls us to be forgiving people. He calls us to ask for forgiveness from those we have wounded and forgive those who have wounded us. This is our call today as followers of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Pardon, and you will be pardoned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
Try to ask yourself: Is there someone you need to ask for forgiveness today, for some wound you inflicted? Is there someone you need to forgive today, for something they did to you? Do it. In doing it, forgiveness will make us free.