Matthew 18: 21-35
The Rev. Leonard Oakes
Holy Child and St. Martin Daly City
The Peace of The Lord be with you! Please tell the person next and around you “Peace”
It was said, “To err is human, to forgive Divine.”
Our Gospel today is a continued reading on Church Unity and reconciliation. The parable in Matthew 18:21-35 tells us of a king who wished to settle account with his slaves. As one who owed him ten thousand talents could not pay him, he summoned him to be sold together with his wife and children and all his possessions but the slaves fell on his knees and pleaded the king to have patience with him and he will pay him everything. Moved by compassion, the king ordered the slave to be released and he forgave him.
But as the forgiven slave went out and said to himself, “I will find those who put me to prison! Payback time!” he met one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii, he seized his fellow slave and asked for payment. His fellow slave pleaded him and fell on his knees, but he did not listen to the plea. Instead, he threw his fellow slave into prison until he could pay him. When the king heard of it, he was furious and handed the unforgiving slave to be tortured until he could pay his debt.
Forgiveness as here described, is the bestowal of mercy and the cancellation of indebtedness. Doubtless, when it is exercised, normal relations are restored. But the peculiar nature of the action described is that, it makes the restoration possible. When the lord of the unmerciful servant asked, “Should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant?” He did not mean, “You ought to have had restored him to fellowship.” But “You ought to have remitted his debt of one hundred bucks?”
True fellowship indeed, with the merciful lord is actually lacking. So little as it presents that the servant can take his comrade by the throat and cry, for the sake of the debt “pay what you owe!” and yet he has been forgiven! The conclusion is inescapable that Jesus is speaking of a stage antecedent to reconciliation when he applies the teaching of the parable in a somber words, “so shall my heavenly father do unto you, if you forgive not everyone from your hearts.
Forgiveness means reconciliation, and it must be mutual, it can not be one sided. Though the advance may be made by one party, both parties must concur. A hand is extended, it must be grasped.
The barriers on either side must be thrown down. Jesus was telling Peter, “If your brother or sister sin against you, rebuke him and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seventy times in a day, seven times he turns saying, “I repent” you shall forgive him, knowing that it is of genuine repentance.
I love the number of the church address: 777 Southgate Avenue. Not only that it is a lucky number but it is also symbolic that this community is a forgiving community seven times seventy seven (777). We must therefore live out the symbol of the number and continue to be a forgiving community. Let us not carry our baggage of hatred on our back packs where we use them against another to remind the hatred and the pain. Life is too short to be keeping those pain and hatred in our hearts. God wants us to live our life in its fullness, fruitful and loving.
One of the things Satan could not understand or perhaps wouldn’t like to understand is when he complains to God about forgiveness. He says,
“God, you’re unfair, so many sinners do wrong and you take them back. In fact some came back half a dozen times and you always welcome them. I make one big mistake and you condemn me forever, it is not fair.” To which the Lord said, “Why, did you ever ask forgiveness or repent?”
Very often we pray, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive the sins of those who sinned against us.” We often ask the Lord for forgiveness and claim that we have forgiven those who have done us wrong. But after a while, we find ourselves digging into the past offenses done to us. In divine forgiveness, the guilt and debt of sin are cancelled and repentant man is received back into fellowship with the father.
Let us take note of the terms “repentant man” although forgiveness is a gift, it won’t be given to us unless we repent for our mistakes. Divine forgiveness is not meant to be kept, it has to be shared and given to those who need it. Just as God has forgiven us and has cancelled our trespasses, we ought to forgive and cancel the trespasses of others with all our hearts. Healing of wounds take a long time and it may even leave a scar. That scar could be itchy at times, calling us to scratch it and wounding it again, worst, inflicting it further damages. Forgiveness is impossible by our own human effort. We need the help of the Almighty.
The business of the Christian Church is to make peace and love not to wage hatred against hatred. Let justice do its part without the stain of hatred. Let us forgive those who were just used by few individual powers whose aim is to wage hate and pain. Let us not submit ourselves to that same feelings. An eye for an eye will leave everybody blind. Let us instead chose light by leading others about true forgiveness and love so that our Father in heaven will be pleased.
In the words of the book of genesis, let us be reassuring and speak kindly to each other. And in the words of Paul to the Romans, let every knee bow and every tongue give praise to God.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, the reason I asked you to give peace in the beginning is because I had the question in mind that, “How can we be sharing one meal today if we have hatred in our hearts to those whom we share the body and blood of Christ?” Were we not taught that before we come to the altar, first, we must reconcile ourselves and to others before we receive the gift? And whatever miracle happens in the Eucharist, we shall go out full of joy telling the whole world the greatness of God! Now when we do this, let the beauty of your heart be manifested in your face and your lips, SMILE! For when you smile, you will find the secret of life walking in you. Please turn to the person next and around you and greet them once more with a big smile saying, “I love you with the love of The Lord.”
May God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit give us strength and joy to proclaim the truth. Amen.