Homily February 19th, 2023

Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year A

Lv 19:1–2, 17–18; Ps 103: 1–4,8,10, 12–13; 1 Cor 3:16–23; Mt 5:38–48

Today’s gospel speaks to us of the mercy we must have when dealing with our enemies, and the importance of forgiveness, despite the fact that Jesus does not expressly speak of forgiveness. We must understand, though, that the only way to truly love our enemies, the only way to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, is through forgiveness.

It is a fact that life is not easy. Many times people are bad, they hurt us, they talk about us behind our backs . . . we can think of troubles in families, infidelity, abuse, lies, divorce, suffering. . . many things. When a person does such things to us, how can we be like Heavenly Father, of whom Jesus said: [The Father] makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. It’s as if He didn’t pay attention to what they did. He knows it, but He does not punish them with darkness or drought.

So forgiving is necessary for us. But what is forgiving? Maybe it’s excusing or forgetting? No: forgiving is neither excusing nor forgetting. Excusing means that the person has done nothing wrong. But, if so, there would be nothing to forgive. In this sense, forgiving and excusing are complete opposites.

Forgetting is impossible, because memory is part of our soul, so we cannot forget. St John Paul II said so: For Christians, memory is too lofty and noble a sanctuary to be defiled by human sin. Certainly, sin can painfully damage the fabric of memory, but it cannot tear it asunder: that fabric is like the seamless garment of the Lord Jesus, which no one dared to divide. . . .  Let us spare no effort in making it possible for memory once again to illuminate the great things which God has done for us. Let us lift our gaze from human pettiness and sin, and let us contemplate in heaven the throne of the Lamb. In other words, it is certain that we suffer, but we must always think about the things that God has done for us.

So what should we do in forgiving? In another place, the same saint said: The truth is that one cannot remain a prisoner of the past, for individuals and peoples need a sort of ‘healing of memories,’ so that past evils will not come back again. This does not mean forgetting past events; it means re-examining them with a new attitude and learning precisely from the experience of suffering that only love can build up, whereas hatred produces devastation and ruin.

Forgiveness is not about forgetting. . . it is a purification of memory, of rereading the past with the new eyes of faith. This is difficult, but we can start by recognizing what they have done to us, with all the malice. We begin to pray for them, for their eternal salvation, and we begin, slowly, to also see these bad things as part of God’s Providence. As St. Paul wrote: we know that all things work for the good of those who love God. Everything, not some things, but all things.

We can think in the example of Saint Augustine. He wanted to go to Rome, but his mother, Saint Monica, prayed and prayed that God would not let them go. Augustine, being bad at that moment, went secretly, and Saint Monica was crying. But it was in Italy where Agostino converted, after having met in Saint Ambrose, and so, in his autobiography The Confessions, Saint Augustine wrote: The reasons why I left one place and reached another, You knew them, o God, even if You didn’t show them to me or my mother. . . . She stayed to pray and cry. And what did he ask you, my God, with so many tears, if not to prevent my navigation? But in the depth of your councils, you fulfilled the main point of her desire, You did not give her the thing she was asking for at that moment, so that You might give her the thing she was always asking for. . . .  She loved my presence by her side, like all mothers. . . and she did not imagine how many joys You would bring her with my absence.

In the book of Revelation, almost at the end, God the Father says: Behold, I make all things new. All things, not only good things, not only excellent things, but all things, even sad things, difficult things, even the worst things people have done to us. And He makes them new, not just tolerable, or decent. He makes them new. . . better than before. As God said through the prophet Habakkuk: Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.

This incredible thing is the power of forgiveness, of praying for these people and of seeing their actions as part of the divine plan. The power of forgiveness is an unlimited power, but we need to ask for it as a grace from God, and to work with God in His work in us.

We ask Mary Most Holy, Mother of Forgiveness, to obtain for us the grace to forgive others, and thus be perfect like our Father in heaven.



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