BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa

In the last few days in Nigeria we experienced a spiral of vengeance: the military brutalised a group of agitators of Biafra on Port Harcourt-Aba express way; soon after there was confusion on the streets and Aba Market where another group of people sought vengeance by attacking traders from the north living in Aba; following this incident, there was a commotion of reprisal attacks in some parts of the north until the security operatives quickly intervened. All these unfortunate incidents happened barely within 48 hours. Everyone was speaking a language of vengeance, “If you touch ‘our people there’, we shall touch ‘your people’ here.” Should we allow this vicious circle of vengeance and violence to go unabated?

Forgiveness and reconciliation are twin virtues that hold a relationship whether it is interpersonal, interethnic or interreligious relationship. One of the hardest things to do is to forgive those who are mean to us; to forgive those who have done or said terrible things against us; or even to forgive those who continue to put us down and those who hate us with disdain.

How can you tell a wife to forgive her husband who constantly treats her badly? How can you tell a husband to forgive a wife who continuously hurts him by her offensive speech? How can you convince parents to forgive children who are bent on behaving badly? How do you convince brothers or sisters to forgive each other after having bitter arguments? We learn about how to forgive from our families. How do you forgive those who bully you at school or in your work place and how do you forgive people who are mean to you even when you are kind to them; people who yell at you even when you are gentle with them; people who offend you and are too proud to say ‘I am sorry’ or forgive people who refuse to say ‘thank you’ when you show them act of kindness.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where it was difficult to forgive someone who offended you? Yes, forgiveness can be very hard in certain situations, and for this reason it takes such a long time before we bring ourselves to forgive our offenders, especially when they are people we trusted so much. The first step towards forgiveness is the ability to say ‘Yes, I forgive.’ It really takes a lot of courage to forgive. The second step is to ask for the help of God by admitting, ‘God, I really want to forgive, but I do not know how to forgive; help me to forgive totally and completely from the depth of my heart.

There are times when people offend us and we say, ‘No problem’ or ‘No worries’ and at the same time, we are seeking vengeance in our hearts. Jesus tells us about the number of times to forgive those who offend us: seventy times seven times, which means we should forgive countless times. To forgive simply means to give another chance to the person who continues to offend us until that person realises his or her mistake and repents.

These quotations from the scriptures speak to us about the importance of forgiveness and how God rewards us when we forgive others: “Forgive your neighbour’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven. Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the LORD?” (Sirach 28:2-4). Jesus puts a powerful question to his listeners: “Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ (Matthew 18:33). Do you notice that each time we say the Lord’s prayer we normally ask God to ‘forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Every day we sin against God in many ways, by the way we talk; by the way we behave; by the way we think and even by our attitude of ingratitude, and yet he continues to forgive us and continues to wait for us to change and become better people. When we ask him to forgive us as we forgive others, we are making a promise to him that we are going to forgive the many people who offend us. Forgiveness paves the road to reconciliation and vice versa. Having had a spiral of vengeance, it high time to tow the path of forgiveness and reconciliation for the sake of peace. Just as forgiving 70X7 is not easy, so is the process of reconciliation cumbersome. At the moment, we really need forgiveness, healing and peace in our land.
———————————————————- Sirach 27:30-28:7
Romans 14:7-9
Matthew 18:21-35
24th Sunday of the Year A

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