Homily on Forgiving Instead of Judging


Reflection on “Forgiving Instead of Judging” based on the Gospel of Matthew 18:15-20 (23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time):

A priest was giving the last rites to a dying man. The priest kept telling him: “Curse Satan. Renounce him now!” The dying man opened his eyes and said: “No way, Father. I am not offending anyone until I am sure where I am going.” J J J

Generally – When someone hurts us, we immediately draw a vision or image of that person. You paint a picture in your mind of the kind of person he or she is….you kind of judge the person based on what you think in terms of the hurt – “he is mean, arrogant, insensitive, heartless, etc.” and when you talk to other people, they might even add to your growing prejudice…. If you were to draw, you might even draw a monster, even with horns, etc.

Remember, perception or what you think is not always reality. We react to what we think which maybe is not the reality… meaning, there is a possibility that you could be wrong or could have misunderstood and therefore could have been quick to judge.

Assuming you were right to feel offended, the only way to heal ourselves of those hurts is through forgiveness.

Forgiving begins when we give up the horrible image we have in our mind of that person who hurt us. Meaning – We must come to a new vision of that person, not simply as the person who hurt us, but as a weak and sinful faulty person who has needs and hurts, too… and trying to understand what caused him or her to behave in that way or to say such a thing or why he failed to do what you expected.

At the cross, Jesus said: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” …meaning – why would you condemn someone who does not know any better…

“But he is already an adult, he should know better”… you might say… but you see – there are people –even adults – who just do not get it.

The problem is: when we come before God for our sins, we ask for Mercy but when it comes to other people’s sins or faults, we demand justice.

Again – Forgiving begins when we give up the horrible image we have in our mind of that person who hurt us and coming up with a new image. And so – With that new image – Consequently, there is a new feeling. The new vision brings a new feeling because now you see this person more realistically.

And then – the next stage, so to speak is – there must be a surrendering of the right to get even. We simply give it up. Yes – we have every right to get even as you might think, but we simply relinquish it… give it up or let go.

Of course, this is much easier said than done… but as the popular saying goes: “To err is human, to forgive is divine.” (Alexander Pope)

On our own, we cannot forgive but by the grace of God we can, and with the grace of God we can even go beyond giving up our right to get even, we can even begin to wish that person well… which is really a miracle. The process of forgiving is fulfilled when you can want good for the person who has wronged you instead of wishing evil to fall upon him or her… The good of the person then will be your intention for approaching that person, as we heard in our readings, to help the person grow and become a better person… not to even.

Then you can say you fulfilled the commandment “Love your enemy”.. “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” because love – true love is willing the good of the other… even if the person is unloveable.

Jesus died for us even while we were still sinners.

Maybe – if you try – this process of forgiveness I just described will result to reconciliation, and maybe it won’t. You may have no control over that.

But at least – the benefit of choosing to be merciful as a starting point instead of judging is that it tends to make us much more peaceful! We are not keeping an eye out for offenses but are looking at blessings. We are not focusing on human sin as much as divine grace. And that tends to open our eyes to the good in the world—which, in turn, has the power to encourage and inspire us.

There is so much to be grateful for. There are so many blessings to thank the Lord for. Fixing our hearts on these can bring unity far more effectively than looking for trouble… far more than fault-finding. It’s the Lord’s job, not ours, to be concerned with the conscience of each person he has made.

If you cannot forgive, maybe you need to examine your own relationship with God and your own experience of forgiveness, of being forgiven.

As Thomas Merton said: “We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God.

Who are we to cast off someone whom Jesus has seen fit to redeem? Who are we to condemn someone whom Jesus has died for?

Think of the person you have a hard time forgiving and imagine Jesus telling you: “I already paid for his or her sins.” and so “Be Merciful”.

Forgiving someone falling short of our expectations does not mean glossing over sin, but it does mean always trying to treat people with the respect and honor they deserve as beloved children of God. Our family, friends, the deacons, even our priests, can fall short of our expectations. However, we all have great dignity in God’s eyes.

Mercy is not about pretending that something hasn’t happened, that sin doesn’t matter. Mercy is about accepting to love and be loved as one is.

St. Mother Teresa said: “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”

Our Gospel today gives us a practical process to initiate or begin reconciliation.
Jesus said: “If your brother sins against you, tell him his fault.”
But of course, do not do this when you are angry. And when we are hurt, we seldom think rationally.
Unfortunately, when people are hurt – they go around telling other people how much this person has hurt him or her… and the last person to know is the person who caused the pain… and you already ruined his or her reputation.

There you are – even losing some sleep, nursing your wounded spirit, and yet, the person who offended you may be sleeping fine, soundly; not because the person is callous and unrepentant, but because maybe he or she simply is not aware of your pain – that he or she has hurt you.

Similarly – How many times you have hurt another person’s feelings, and only to find out much later about their pain or that you have hurt their feeling?

That is why Jesus placed the responsibility for initiating the process of reconciliation on the person who was hurt or who feels the hurt… because that person knows the hurt or the extent of the offense.

Just like – God knows – the most – about our sinfulness, how much we offend Him – not necessarily only for what we do or failed to do – but because of what is in our hearts – which only God can fathom. We can hide our sinfulness from others – but God knows us – He sees us – through and through – and so God always initiates – always invites us – to be reconciled with Him and with one another… “God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son – not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him.”

My brothers and sisters in Christ, over time – if we persevere – like the Saints – we can become more like Jesus. And that’s the challenge for us. Will we stand fast in our ways, our ways of thinking or will we let the Holy Spirit continue to mold us and shape us?

The next time you find yourself ready to judge someone, ask yourself this, “How would Jesus react?” … and then you “Pause” and let the Spirit give you His insight. You’ll be amazed by how much peace and wisdom He can give you!

Homily for the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A
Readings:Ezekiel 33:7-9 Romans 13:8-10 Matthew 18:15-20

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