Sunday Scriptures

Living Our Lives in a Spirit of Forgiveness

Many powerful preachers have spoken about the “privilege of knowing God.” As Christians, it is a tremendous blessing to know the Lord Christ Jesus and pursue the “blessed life” of the Kingdom on His terms. In the second reading from the Letter to the Romans, Saint Paul makes the terms of the Lord very clear for those claiming to be Christians: 1. Surrender your self-determination to Christ. 2. Change your outlook on others’ sins against you through the eyes of Faith. 3. Regard your belonging to Christ Jesus and love for others before all else.

Surrender Self-Determination
These are the hallmarks of those who truly live under “the Lordship of Jesus Christ.” All of this Sunday’s readings challenge us to consider, to pursue and to embrace these terms of the Lord in moments of extreme need, tension, offense and habitual sin committed against us. St. Paul sets the tone for us as he addresses his readers in Rome. They are very upset at Gentile converts who persist in disregarding the Sabbath and consuming foods not deemed kosher. Paul reminds the Jewish Christians that they must regain the same vision of open-mindedness to the Lord and His will which they possessed when they first called upon Him as “Lord.”

As Christians, we are called to refuse to indulge and to wallow in destructively critical, condemning and unforgiving conversation and actions about and against those whom we deem as “offending us.” For the Lord whom we serve has called us to surrender our right to determine the path of our life and service based on the weakness of our human flesh and egos. Instead, the Lord calls us to be constant in fixing our eyes on Him and His approach in all things.

Change Your Outlook
St Paul helps us to understand that truly Christ-transformed Christians have a totally unique and different approach to what could potentially “offend” us. Our faith in the promise of the Lord’s power to raise us from the dead must be the lens through which we consider all sin against us as a God-given opportunity: to exercise the God-supplied power to forgive in Jesus’ name. We find a wonderful praise and blessing of the Lord taken from Psalm 103 in the Responsorial Psalm. Rising from the lips of Blessed King David, the Lord hears the king’s acknowledgement of the gift of personal forgiveness and the covenant blessing of mercy given to all God’s people. The Lord, the God of justice, sets the example to be unyielding in His exercise of forgiveness.

In the first reading from Book of Sirach and the Gospel of St. Matthew, we receive the summons to realize the forgiveness of God by always living and acting in a spirit of forgiveness especially when it is ongoing and most difficult. Sirach advises the young wealthy men in Jerusalem of the healing power of habitual forgiveness in a society plagued by widespread strife, slander and betrayal. In our faith commitment to forgive in these very traumatizing situations, our souls find peace and God’s forgiveness. Such a commitment is a keystone in building what Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI champion as a “civilization of love” in our society.

In the Gospel of St. Matthew, Jesus answers Peter’s question concerning the extent to which we must forgive an unrepentant sinner. Jesus maintains that we must always forgive the unrepentant sinner. Case closed, period! Jesus’ twist on the number seven makes it clear that we are to forgive habitually until our journey on Earth is complete. This lifestyle of forgiveness is essential in the life of every Christian. As God always forgives, so must we. God is the source of forgiveness. We are the Lord’s vessels for forgiveness. There is no other way for us who have been injured by those who have taken so much away from us (represented by the 100 days wages in the parable) by their sins. Though many have hurt us by their sin, God has forgiven each of us of much, much more (represented by the 10,000 talents equivalent to an entire nation’s gross national product).

Forgive From Your Heart
Jesus’ parable in today’s Gospel depicts a very painful punishment for the official who was forgiven by the king and yet went on to abuse one of his own debtors. Jesus reminds us that “just like the king in this story, my heavenly Father will treat you same way unless you forgive others from your heart.” As the king put great trust in this official, Christ puts great trust in us in revealing His unconditional and universal love at Calvary, His Tomb, His Eucharistic Sacrifice and in His Sacrament of Reconciliation. We now must proclaim and live out this Good News always in a spirit of forgiveness.

For we no longer live for our own selves, our own egos and our own agendas, worshiping our wounds and scars. Now, we who are alive in Christ Jesus, live for the Lord to whom we have surrendered our need for “drama” in exchange for His call to love unconditionally. [hr]Readings for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
    Sirach 27:30-28:7
    Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12
    Romans 14:7-9
    Matthew 18:21-35[hr] Father Caleb Buchanan is the parochial vicar of St. Martin de Porres, Bedford-Stuyvesant; coordinator of the Vicariate of Black Catholic Concerns, the diocesan West Indian and African-American Apostolates; and the chaplain of Medgar Evers College.