Fr. Tony’s 8-Minute Homily
No Justice Without Forgiveness
Replacing Hostility with Love
—Begin w/ Anecdote
No Justice without Forgiveness
In 1981 there was an attempt on the life of Pope St. John Paul II. Fortunately, the Pope lived. After he recovered, he shocked the world when he made a visit to Rome’s Rabbibia Prison on Christmas Day to see the man who had attempted to assassinate him.
Millions watched on television as the Pope, on Christmas Day, visited with Mehmet Ali Agca, who only two years before had tried to assassinate him. The white-robed Pope and jean-clad terrorist huddled in the dark prison cell for 20 minutes, talking in low voices that could not be heard.
When he emerged John Paul explained, “I spoke to a brother whom I have pardoned.” We will never forget the headline the next week in Time Magazine, “Why forgive?” That is a good question, one that has been asked for centuries. Today’s readings give the reasons.
Three months after the terrible attack of September 11, 2001, Pope St. John Paul II, in his message for the annual World Day for Peace, taught clearly that there can be no peace without justice, and there can be no justice without forgiveness.
That’s a message that has gone largely unheard and unheeded on all sides of today’s conflicts. It’s kind of like what Chesterton said about Christianity itself – it hasn’t been tried and found wanting; it’s been found difficult and left untried.
—Begin w/ Anecdote
Replacing Hostility with Love
In the motion picture of the life of Gandhi, there is a scene in which a Hindu father whose child has been killed by a Muslim comes to Gandhi in great grief and remorse. Out of a sense of retribution he has killed a Muslim child. He now kneels before Gandhi asking how he can get over his guilt and regret.
Gandhi, who is gravely ill, tells the man that he must go and adopt a boy and raise him as his very own son. That request seems reasonable but then comes a requirement: In order to find inner peace, the Hindu man must raise the boy to be a Muslim. Overwhelmed at the inconceivable thought of raising a son as a Muslim, the man leaves Gandhi’s room in total disarray.
Later, however, he returns and again kneels beside Gandhi’s bed. He now understands. He must take the hostility from his heart and replace it with love. That kind of forgiveness is more than passive resignation to a bad situation.
By the grace of God we can use forgiveness as a positive, creative force bringing light into a darkened world.
—Begin w/ Anecdote
The news is filled with illustrations of mercy—or the need for mercy—in our world. One of the most moving stories came to us on October 6, 2006, when an armed man entered an Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. He chased out the little boys and lined up the 10 little girls in front of the blackboard. He shot all of them and then killed himself. Five of the girls died.
After the medics and police left, the families of the fallen came and carried their slain children home. They removed their bloody clothes and washed the bodies. They sat for a time and mourned their beloved children.
After a while they walked to the home of the man who killed their children. They told his widow they forgave her husband for what he had done, and they consoled her for the loss of her spouse. They buried their anger before they buried their children.
Amish Christians teach us that forgiveness is central. They believe in a real sense that God’s forgiveness of themselves depends on their extending forgiveness to other people. That’s what the mercy of God is all about.
Source: Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds; quoted by Fr. Botelho
24th Sunday of Year A
Fr. Tony started his homily ministry (Scriptural Homilies) in 2003 while he was the chaplain at Sacred Heart residence, applying his scientific methodology to the homily ministry. By word of mouth, it spread to hundreds of priests and Deacons, finally reaching Vatican Radio website. These homilies reach nearly 3000 priests and Deacons by direct email every week.
The clipart is from the archive of Father Richard Lonsdale © 2000. It may be freely reproduced in any non-profit publication.
Our readings for this Twenty-Fourth Sunday concern forgiving and being reconciled with those who wound us. All three readings today remind us of the path to forgiveness, mercy, and reconciliation and challenge us to walk this path with Jesus, the only Way to Life.
The Gospel specifically emphasizes two ideas. The first idea, found in Jesus’ reply to Peter’s question, is that the disciples of Jesus must forgive one another always (“seventy times seven times” = without limit). The second idea, found in the parable, is the communal dimension of forgiveness.
Sirach, in the first reading, reminds his listeners that if they don’t heal and forgive and show mercy, they can’t expect to receive mercy from God in return. It is unwise to nurse grudges and wise to forgive because our life span is very short and our eternal destiny is decided by how we forgive, how we work for reconciliation with those who wound us, and how we render humble and loving service to them.
In today’s Psalm, (Ps 103), the Psalmist sings, “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness.”
In the second reading, Paul reminds us that we have to forgive others because we belong to Christ who, by his own example in forgiving those who killed Him, taught us how we must forgive in our turn. Since we humans are related to each other as brothers and sisters of Jesus, we are in the family of God, so hatred and bitterness toward anyone should have no place in our hearts.
In today’s Gospel, through the parable of the two debtors, Jesus teaches us that there should be no limit to our forgiveness and no conditions attached to our reconciliation. We represent the greater debtor in the parable because we commit sins every day and, hence, we need God’s forgiveness every day. But we must forgive in order to be forgiven. Jesus explains, after teaching us the prayer Our Father, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father also will forgive you. “
Fr. Tony’s Life
24th Sunday of Year A
We need to forgive, forget, and be reconciled
In the light of eternity and the shortness of our span of life, harboring old grudges is pointless. Neighbors who remained hostile and unforgiving till their death are buried a short distance from one another in the same cemetery.
Our ability and willingness to forgive are the measure of the depth of our Christianity. The forgiveness that we offer others is the indispensable condition which makes it possible for us to receive God’s forgiveness and to pray meaningfully: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Let us remember St. Francis of Assisi’s prayer: “It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.” Our failure to offer pardon means that we have forgotten God’s goodness or have not fully appreciated the unconditional forgiveness we have received from Him. What God expects from us, and offers us grace to give, is limitless forgiving with the ability and willingness to overlook faults and to keep on loving even in the face of insults.
“Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?”
Incidents of simple human frailties challenge each of us on a personal level. We need to find healing for painful family relationships. We need to find forgiveness for/from an employer and for/from a friend who has deserted us. We need to find forgiveness for the teacher who may have judged us wrongly.
We need to find courage to stop, to be silent, and to pray for grace when we find ourselves in conflict with the one we most trusted, so that we may answer with compassion — not counter-attack nor recriminate, but seek the reasons for what we experience as a betrayal, that we may resolve the issue, be reconciled, and forgive one another without conditions.
We need to think more of the advantage of forgiving
Let us forgive the person who has wronged us before the hatred eats away at our ability to forgive. It will not be easy, but God is there to help us. We can do this by offering that individual to God, not sitting in judgment on him or her, but by simply saying, “Help so-and-so and me to mend our relationship.” Whatever the hurt, pain, disappointment, fear or anger that we may be feeling, we need to say, “God, I give this over to You. I can’t take care of it, but I know that You can. What would You have me to do?” And then listen.
This isn’t merely being passive – or passing the buck to God. In fact it’s just the opposite. This kind of prayer and this kind of listening has to give birth to action, but it’s action that realistically acknowledges God’s Lordship, and trusts that, through God’s power, we can do all things, even the impossible . . . like forgiving.
Alexander Pope once said, “To err is human, to forgive, Divine.” Believe it – because God alone is the Divine! When we withhold forgiveness, we remain the victim. When we offer forgiveness, we are doing it also for our own well-being. Forgiveness allows us to move beyond the pain, the resentment, and the anger. We always have a choice: to forgive or not to forgive. When we forgive we make the choice that heals.
We may never forget the hurt we have experienced, but we can choose to forgive
As life goes on and we remember an incident that was hurtful and caused great anger, we need to remind ourselves that with God’s grace we have already forgiven the one that hurt us. Time does heal memories. Time can dull the vividness of the hurt and thus the memory will fade. We must never let the person who hurt us own us. Forgiveness finally changes us from prisoners of our past to freed children of God, at peace with Him, with each other, and with our memories. Now we can see that those who cause such destruction and pain are sinful suffering men and women who need the redeeming grace of Jesus Christ.