A few years ago, I was approached on social media by a man I had been at school with. For a few years at school, he had bullied me. Merely seeing his name took me back to the pain and misery he caused me at that time and made me feel like the frightened little boy I was back then. I didn’t want anything to do with this approach, but I shared with Pam that he had approached me, and she advised me that maybe he wanted to say sorry for what he had done. I said, there’s no way that would be the case, that she did not know him or what he had put me through. I saw his approach as a way of him being able to get to me again and I refused to have anything to do with him.
Around six months after his approach, I heard through some school friends that he had died and I wondered; in fact I still wonder to this day, if Pam had been right. Was he aware of whatever it was that was killing him and did he want to reach out to say sorry or maybe even ask for forgiveness? The little boy in me still says ‘no way’, but the man I am now says maybe I missed an opportunity to forgive him. This is a regret that, because I did not give him the opportunity, I need to live with and pray about.
Our readings today tell us that if we expect God to forgive us then we really need to forgive those who offend us. In the parable Jesus uses in the Gospel, He relates sins to debts. Money is something people can relate to. Jesus asks us to be like the man who owed the thousand talents in the way that he asked for forgiveness; but not to be like him in the way that he dealt with his fellow servant; when he was asked to forgive. How can we, approach God and ask for forgiveness when we hold resentment in our heart for another person?
In the first reading, from the Old Testament, we hear the words “resentment and anger, these are foul things, and both are found with the sinner.” A little later in the same reading we hear “Forgive your neighbour the hurt he does you, and when you pray your sins will be forgiven.” The message Jesus was giving was not something new, Jesus was confirming the words from the Old Testament and fulfilling the words of the prophets.
In the psalm, we hear that God does not treat us according to our sins; perhaps it’s just as well, as only we know what sins we have committed and the possible harm they may have caused both to ourselves and others.
In the second reading St Paul reminds us that the way we live influences those around us.
If we call ourselves Christians, how will those around us know that we are Christians?
Is it because we come to church each Sunday, or is it the way we care for those we encounter?
Do we only love the people who love us, or do we share God’s love; even with those who persecute us?
I will never know in this life whether I missed an opportunity to forgive my bully, but I will always wonder. I know first hand how that wonder can; every now and again; catch me out and give me feelings of regret. The message in today’s Gospel is to forgive and avoid having this type of regret. Our forgiveness may lead to something wonderful, or it could lead to other situations where we need to forgive again. We are not called to second guess the future or the motivation of the other for asking for forgiveness; we are called to forgive as Our Father in Heaven forgives.
[As part of my preparation for this reflection, I checked what I had written three years ago for the same scripture readings. I see from my reflection then that we were still under restrictions for Covid-19 and I was recommending a song which I am very fond of; Matthew West’s Forgiveness1. I clicked the link to hear it again and found that the link has been played over 6 million times [not as a result of me posting the link] imagine if each of those 6 million plays resulted in someone being able to forgive another, wouldn’t that be wonderful!]
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
CCC 218-221: God is love
CCC 294: God manifests his glory by sharing his goodness
CCC 2838-2845: “forgive us our trespasses”
Please keep in your prayers this week
- Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
- All those struggling to feed their families at this time.
- Those working to help others who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
- Those discerning a vocation.
- Those attending the Baptism Preparation Course starting this Sunday at St Bede’s
- Francesca, who will be baptised at St Bede’s this Sunday.
1 Matthew West, Forgiveness, available from https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/matthewwest/forgiveness.html#:~:text=%22Forgiveness%22.%20It%27s%20the%20hardest%20thing%20to%20give%20away.,you%20have%20just%20to%20say%20the%20word%E2%80%A6.%20Forgiveness. Accessed 15th September 2023