Giving Time the Chance to Act

17 August 2006: Thursday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time
Matthew 18, 21-19, 1: Giving Time the Chance to Act

Note: Every once in a while, a simple, inspiring and brief sharing comes my way. Today, this sharing was given by Bro. Errol Nebrao Jr., SJ, whose assignment fell on the day of my mass schedule with the Juniors & Philosophy scholastics. This is far better than what I am supposed to deliver at the UP Mass today at 6PM. Perhaps even thinking of using this homily for today.

If I were to ask you what you ate a month ago, you would doubtless reply that you no longer remember. You would be right to say that; unless perhaps you had gone out to eat at a restaurant that day, or if you had been invited to a friend's house or to a party; or unless the ulam for that day was fish.

A person is subject to forgetfulness. But there is one thing that we have trouble forgetting: the offenses that others have committed against us. Why? Quite simple: Because an offense is always present in the spirit of the person who does not want or know how to let time act, the time that inexorably passes and that allows offenses to be forgotten. There is but a single remedy that allows the forgiveness of offenses: time! This is why Jesus answers Peter by saying that he must forgive again and again, up to seventy-seven times --- in fact, infinitely --- thus giving time the chance to act and allowing the offense to disappear from memory.

What I have just said is something that everyone has already experienced, for we have all heard someone say: "Brother X has wronged me and I can never forget it." And it is for this reason that we have great difficulty in forgiving the offenses committed against us, for we can never forget them. However, Jesus correctly replied to Peter when He told him to forgive up to seventy-seven times. For the only way to truly forgive someone is to allow time to act upon our spirit, upon our soul, upon our entire being, in order that time, with the grace of God, might be able to transform that act of offense into a true, historical act, and that we might be able to regard it as being truly in the past, almost forgotten.

However, in the parable, the master anticipates that time: He forgives the servant's debt, even before time had a chance to act in the servant's favor. It is a grace, a grace of mercy! For the master already wants to forget everything! Is this not wonderful? To know that our offense has already been forgiven, to know that we no longer owe anything to anyone! Indeed, what grace! Is it not burdensome to know that we owe an amount to our lenders? Would we not prefer to live without ever having any debts to pay? Yes, of course we would!

Forgiveness is truly a mysterious thing to do. It takes a great heart and soul to face that great step of reconciling and forgiving one another. So let us continue to beg for the grace of a forgiving heart, that though we may not forget the faults we did and others did, we can indeed forgive ourselves and others, and allowing the true grace of forgiveness to unfold in our hearts.

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