LOVE WITHOUT FORGIVENESS IS A WASTED LOVE! HOMILY FOR THE 7TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

LOVE AND FORGIVENESS LANDSCAPE

Once upon a time, there were two close friends, love, and forgiveness. They were so close and had a mutual understanding. One day they came across two other individuals, jealousy and ego, who wanted to become friends with them. Forgiveness was not very comfortable with their attitude, but love asked that they give them time to know them more

Soon, it became clear that ego and jealousy didn’t have any good thought for love and forgiveness as they could no longer function together; love would now go one way with jealousy and forgiveness would take another route with ego.

Love missed forgiveness, but jealousy would allow them to get back together. On the other hand, forgiveness could not function without love, but ego would discourage a rethink to get back to love. One day another old and wise friend called trust came looking for love and forgiveness and seeing the damage jealousy and ego was causing, trust used his strong powers to chase them away from love and forgiveness, and they reunited once more. They thus realized that they could not do without each other.

The Entailment of Love

One of the most misunderstood concepts in the world is love. Most times, people confuse love with fondness or the feeling of excitement. Love is beyond how you feel. It is more about what you do. Love shows itself in the action of the lover toward the loved one.

We have some biblical examples indicating the actionable character of love. The Gospel of John (3:16) tells us that “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” Here we see the expression of love in the act of giving.

Furthermore, towards the end of his earthly ministry, our Lord Jesus Christ had this to say, “no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Here again, we see the expression of love in the act of laying down one’s life. One common factor in the two examples is that love is sacrificial, and to make a sacrifice, one needs to give up something of great value.

The First Reading today (Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18) tells us about God’s first instruction about loving others. Notice that God begins the directive by asking the people to reflect His holiness. He further instructs them not to bear hatred in their heart, take revenge, nor bear grudges against others.

From this instruction, we understand that true love does not entertain unholy and sinful dispositions like hatred, anger, revenge, and ill-feeling towards people. St. Paul makes this clearer in his First Letter to the Corinthians (13:4-7) where he says, among other things:

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

True Love Activates Forgiveness

In the Gospel Reading (Matthew 5:38-48), which is a continuation of the sermon on the mount, our Lord Jesus Christ makes a practical reappraisal of the entailment of love using forgiveness as a measure. In the sermon, our Lord overrules the conventional “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” with the noble attitude of non-resistance and non-retaliation.

On the concept of love, which in the Jewish tradition was restricted to one’s neighbors (insiders), and excluded enemies (outsiders), our Lord recommends love for all even to the so-called enemies and persecutors. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, our Lord Jesus Christ answered the question, “who is my neighbor?”

Moving Forward with Forgiveness  

The question that could follow our Lord’s recommendation above is, “how can we love our enemies?” The answer is also straightforward, forgive them! For one to be your enemy means that there is an offense against you, and the best gift you can give to an enemy is love not hatred as the First Reading tells us. Mother Teresa once said that if we really want to love, we must learn how to forgive.

It may sound weird and complicated for many of us to accept the invitation to forgive those who have wronged us badly. But that is the authentic Christian approach which our Lord Jesus not only taught but also practiced while hanging on the cross when he said, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Forgiveness would not change what happened in the past, but it does enlarge the future and leaves a liberating positive impact. An author once said that to forgive is to set a prisoner free and to discover that the prisoner was you. Loving and forgiving help us to reproduce God in our lives. Often people will hurt us, make us mad, and even make a mess out of our lives. It takes a firm Christian disposition to love again. Pay attention to the following in every fight:

  • The first to apologize is the bravest.
  • The first to forgive is the strongest.
  • The first to forget is the happiest.

God bless you and have a blessed week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

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