FORGIVENESS AND RECONCILIATION

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time   

            Jesus’ words in today’s gospel are very simple and to the point. He knows that his disciples will not always see eye to eye, and they will not always work together in total agreement. He knows there will be differences, arguments and disputes. He knows that feelings will be hurt; anger will be aroused; harsh words will be spoken; antagonism set in.

            “If your brother sins…” With this Jesus candidly admits that the fellowship of his followers, the community of his disciples, is not made up of perfect persons but of men and women who are sinners journeying to conversion. If they are to love as he commands them, then they must settle these arguments, extend forgiveness and be reconciled with one another. (James Menapace) They must reach out to an erring brother or sister; they must take the initiative or the first step in the process of reconciliation. They must do so in the spirit of humility and charity, knowing that they are responsible for each other.

            This is the clear message of today’s gospel reading to us: We must do everything to be reconciled with one another. Do not let endless days and nights be ruined by your stubbornness and refusal to forgive and be forgiven and be reconciled. Life is just too short for that nonsense! There are better and more important things to do than feeling slighted, abused and victimized…than finding faults and failings with others…than making judgments and telling gossips to get even.

            The Lord’s instruction in today’s gospel is very clear: When you are hurt or some wrong has been done to you, you are to express that hurt to the one who has done the harm and not to everyone in your barangay. We owe it to ourselves, our peace and well-being, to be honest about our feelings – to share them openly with the one who has offended us. (James Menapace)

            The Lord has given us the power to forgive and to reconcile. When we are unwilling to exercise that power of forgiveness, we bind ourselves in sin – we get trapped in a bitter past, we remain burdened by anger and resentment. There is no peace of mind, no peace of heart. Where there is no forgiveness, there is no love. One cannot claim to be a Christian without forgiving and reconciling love, love is the hallmark of a Christian.

            There are times when all of us struggle with resentment and we brood over our past injuries. In the teachings of Jesus and in our daily conduct there is no room for licking our wounds or nursing our grievances. That is not only good religion. It is good common sense. To harbor resentments is like closing a wound with all the infection still inside. No healing can ever take place. The wound has to be lanced and opened and cleansed before it can heal.

            Resentment is having the same angry feelings over and over again. And they keep eating us away. Ang masama, mas pinipili pa nating paulit-ulit na bumabalik sa atin galit at poot na nakatanim sa puso natin. At dahil dito, hinahayaan natin na paulit-ulit din tayong sinasaktan at pinahihirapan ng sama ng loob, Gayung maaari naman natin piliing magpatawad. Someone said, “Resentment is like drinking poison, hoping that the other person dies.”

            Even though we share in God’s life, it takes talking, real effort, lots of time and plenty of prayer and love to bring about forgiveness and reconciliation. Indeed, it takes so much selfless acts to bring about restored friendship, renewed marriage, transformed bonds of love.

            The very first sentence of today’s second reading supplements the over-riding motivation of our responsibility for the members of our community: on LOVE. St. Paul says, “Love does no evil to the neighbor.” Obligation ceases to be an issue when there is a fullness of love. Taking responsibility for one another becomes an act of love.

            It is easy for us to think of love as “doing good things” – like feeding and clothing, visiting and assisting, caring and sharing. But the most important aspect of love is to see to another’s eternal welfare. At times, though, this means “tough love.” And among the “toughest love” must be to offer fraternal correction. Paul contends that people who honestly try to discharge their debt of love will find all else falling into place. And it may include possible temporary embarrassment over fraternal correction.

            Repeating the words of St. Paul: “Love does no evil to the neighbor.” We are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Our love for our neighbor must be a forgiving and reconciling love.   

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