‘How often must I forgive?’
Father Ed Vanorny
Homily from the Televised Mass, NewsCenter1
Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 17, 2023
What we hear in our Scripture readings for this Sunday can and should shed some important light on the choices that we make in our relationships with others, within our families, and within faith communities. And as we consider that, I share this story.
In 1967, a novelist named Gabriel Marquez wrote a novel entitled “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” And in this book, he tells the story about a woman named Maria, who at one point in her life received a vision in which she was to weave the shroud in which she would be buried. When she had finished the shroud she would die. So, she went ahead and worked on her shroud ever so faithfully, continually re-working the shroud almost every day until the day came when it was done, and so, she was ready to die.
In telling this story, Gabriel suggested that her task of weaving that shroud was symbolic. Symbolic of how each of us lives out the days of our lives. As we weave our own stories, our shrouds so to speak, mending and sewing the fabric of our shroud as the days go by. And all the while, introducing new designs and new ideas. Undoing, and reworking our shrouds until our task is completed.
For each of us, the shroud of the life that we weave is pretty much in our own hands and we probably know that we can’t do much to determine what will come our way. But it’s also pretty sure that we can decide how we will weave all of those things into our story as we decide whether we will let those things foster bitterness, anger, regret. Or will they foster love, compassion, and forgiveness.
As a people of faith, the world that we pray for, it can only come about through human hands and human hearts. Our hands and our hearts. Hands and heart that are willing to work together with others in making a world that is worthy of God’s people.
Peter asked Jesus: “How often must I forgive?” And Sirach, in our first reading asks us: “Could anyone refuse mercy to another, and still hope to have pardon for his own sins?” Jesus is asking us what kind of world would we like in our relationships with each other, while he’s also hoping that we realize, we realize that forgiveness and reconciliation are two very important components for the shrouds of our lives.
In the long run, forgiving others for what they have done against us and being reconciled with them, that may be a small price to pay for the privilege of living in a world where the mercy and the compassion of God appears not just seven times, but seventy-seven times, and in fact forever.