A time to forgive
I remember when I was much younger, a priest told this story during his homily: There was a wonderful and successful man who had done many good things for his own family and people around him in the village. He was not Catholic but had been inspired by many catholic people with faith and charity. One day, he decided that he wanted to be baptised and became a Catholic. Attending the catechism class, the catechist taught him the Our Father. The catechist went on: “…Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors…”
Hearing this part, he objected immediately: “No, no I do not want it anymore.”
“Why?” asked the catechist.
The gentleman answered: “If I forget those who are in debt to me, my business will be bankrupt.”
The story ended with that line.
There was a time that I wanted to know: Did this man eventually become a Catholic? What is the difference between forgive and forget? Maybe many of you have the same curiosity?
However, it does not matter how this gentleman ended up. It is more significant for us to realise that forgiveness is an extremely difficult decision to make in any circumstance. Most importantly, forgiveness is a unique characteristic of people of faith.
In the very beginning of the Gospel today, Peter asks Jesus “Lord, how often must I forgive my brother or sister if he or she wrongs me, as often as seven times?” (Matthew 18:21-22)
Jesus replies with a shocking answered: “Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-22) How could it be possible? Forgiving once is hard enough. How can I forgive seventy-seven times? The biblical term of ‘seventy-seven times’ means that we are urged to forgive as many times as we can. Forgiveness is unlimited.
In Vietnamese culture, there is a common expression. In English it translates as ‘What goes around comes around’. Do you have that expression in English? ‘What goes around comes around’. It is the expression of a certain wisdom that tells that there are times when we have done things to others that have come home to roost. When we offer words of kindness and love to others, that invites acts of kindness and love in return. On the other hand, isn’t it true that words of anger only produce more anger on each side? In other words, what we do for others, it will be done to us in other ways: if you forgive others, they are likely to forgive you.
How many of us were angry and disappointed with the announcement from last Sunday? At the parish house, we too could not believe what we heard from the news. We felt lost, disappointed, or frustrated with the whole current pandemic situation.
This lockdown and pandemic puts our faith to the test: a test of patience, a test of forgiveness, a test of understanding, a test of loving, and caring for one another unconditionally.
Today we are invited to sit back and reflect on the readings with an open heart and see where Jesus invites us to forgive one another, to let it go. Also, using this time of staying at home, we come to the realisation that there is not much time we have left for one another in this world. Instead of wasting our time in hating one another let us be courageous in forgiving and caring.