7th Sunday in Ordinary Time

First reading: Lv. 19:1–2,17–18

The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them: Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.

“You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart. Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen, do not incur sin because of him. Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”

Second reading: 1 Cor. 3:16–23

Brothers and sisters: Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.

Let no one deceive himself. If any one among you considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool, so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God, for it is written: God catches the wise in their own ruses, and again: The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.

So let no one boast about human beings, for everything belongs to you, Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or the present or the future: all belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God.

Gospel: Mt. 5:38–48

Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand over your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.

“You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

In other words 

Fr. Magdaleno Fabiosa, SVD (Holy Name University, Tagbilaran City)

For us who have been hurt by a friend, for whatever reason, we know that forgiveness is achingly tricky. Even after we’ve forgiven, the wound still throbs, the ache still lingers, and our heart remains angry and resentful. That is why what comes as a natural reaction is to reject that someone who pained us from becoming a part of our life. But no matter how we try to make that somebody non-existent as possible, deep inside us, the thought of what happened hangs like a Damocles sword disturbing us to no end. A psychologist said, “No matter how we make them not anymore part of our life and deny they exist, they inevitably poison our system to no end.” The only way out of that rot is to forgive.

But is forgiveness possible? It is by no means easy. We say, “I will forgive if the other fellow begs pardon or shows signs that he or she is sorry.” Putting such a condition to our forgiveness does not work. Both parties will be watching each other like a hawk to see whether there is a sign, hinting that the other party is sorry. This is a no-win situation. The only remedy is the realization that God had forgiven my sins and given me another chance.

This is the lesson Jesus wanted to teach us in the parable of the unforgiving servant (Mt. 18:23–35). The parable ends with the Master telling the unforgiving servant who was unwilling to listen to his fellow servant’s request for a time leeway to pay his meager debt, “Were you not bound to have pity on your fellow servant just as I had pity on you (by forgiving your very huge debt)?”

I take the first move. Instead of waiting for my neighbor, I defy the natural law of retribution by breaking the cycle of “un-grace”: Taking the initiative to forgive. I do this because God took the initiative to forgive me. St. Paul would say, “He (Jesus) died for me!” This is the heart of the Gospel message.

God’s forgiveness is unconditional; it comes from a heart that demands nothing for itself, a heart that is empty of self-seeking. It is this divine forgiveness that I have to practice. It calls me to get beyond the arguments that forgiveness is unwise, unhealthy, and impractical. It demands of me that I step over that wounded part of my heart that still throbs with pain; it demands of me not to stoke the ember of resentment by not entertaining the memory of what happened. Time and the grace of God will play their part to heal the pain eventually.

Is it possible to forgive? I want to observe and follow the law, but it seems it is too much for me. I come to a point to acknowledge the fact that if God does not help me, I will never be able to do it. Goodwill is not enough. With God’s grace, it is possible. And when God’s grace gives us the strength to forgive, it is a resurrection experience, getting out from the dark tomb of self-absorption and self-pity to the sun’s bright light that the love for the neighbor brings to our life. Although not easy, it is worth the trouble.

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