CYCLE II: HHOMILY FOR THURSDAY OF THE 19TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: THE LAW OF MERCY : 70×7 FORGIVENESS!
BY: Fr. Benedict Agbo
HOMILY: *Ezek 12 :1-12, Matt 18 :21 – 19 :1.
Few days ago, we looked at the law of increase that states that ‘He who sows sparingly will reap sparingly’. Today, we want to look at the law of mercy that states : ‘As you forgive others their trespasses against you, so shall your heavenly Father forgive you your own trespasses’. The measure must be always and infinite : 70 ×7. Today’s gospel presents a granite fact that unmercifulness is the 1st measure of wickedness and the Bible says that ‘there is no rest for a wicked man’. 3 things will make us fall from grace :
1. Falling under the law of faith, Jn 1:10 – 12.
2. Falling under the law of love, Matt 26 :31-46.
3. Falling under the law of mercy, Matt 18 :21 – 19 :1.
God will withdraw his forgiveness only to those who have disqualified themselves from receiving his mercy by their failure to extend same to their neighbour.
A theologian said that ‘To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you’. It is a sign of strength because we can only forgive something only when we transcend the negative effects of that provocative offence. It is a very advanced virtue for advanced Christians. As George Heiders puts it : ‘He who cannot forgive others destroys the bridge over which he himself must pass’. In today’s gospel, Jesus uses this beautiful parable to show us how the judgment will be. God’s first demand on us as we beg for mercy here on earth is : ‘Cancel out yours and I will cancel out mine’.
Christians must continue to be guided by Christ’s teachings and paradigms otherwise, let them stop answering that name. Alexander the great told one of his lazy soldiers to either drop that name ‘Alexander’ or change his attitude. Christ’s teachings unequivocally placed the following virtues as reciprocal; compassion, love, forgiveness and offering. If we must continue to receive these from God, then we must show same to our neighbour, Lk 6: 36 – 38. In today’s gospel Peter, bothered by the existential difficulties posed by Christ’s teachings on forgiveness decided to ask him for boundary demarcation. To what extent should a Christian continue to tolerate nonsense from his neighbour before retaliating? He thought he was magnanimous enough by proposing the highest biblical figure of 7 which signifies fullness. But Christ expands the boundary line indefinitely by his use of the ’70 × 7′ metaphor. Peter must have been disappointed knowing the existential implications of this. People are going to toy with Christians in future just like the Muslims are now doing in Nigeria.
Hating people is like burning down your own house to get rid of a rat. Revenge has an uncanny way of keeping our wounds perpetually open and leaving us perpetually vulnerable to our enemies. Look at our campus cults (Black Axe, Vikings, Bukaniers, etc) and see how the cycle of vengeance keeps ruining our young men and women everyday. My younger brother told me few months ago the horrible experience they had around 8 pm in their neighbourhood a few months ago when a cult boy flying in a byke was helmed down by 2 guys from another bike and butchered with axe in front of his window. It may no longer be fire, water or even hunger that will destroy the world. The highest threat to human survival is hatred. In fact, religious war may be the most dangerous. While Mohammed advices his own followers to fight unbelievers to the finish, Christ is advising us to love and forgive our own enemies. We have no option than to obey him since he is our leader. The 70 × 7 forgiveness is the highest challenge of Christian teaching. But it is in obeying this command that we allow God to be the final arbiter between us and our enemies. Just test and see that the Lord is good!
May God bless you today!