By Rev. Fr. Tristan Jasper D. Laforteza
TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME. One bright and sunny day, there were two friends walking along the desert. After some time, one friend slapped the other in his face. The one who had been slapped wrote in the sand without any complaint or argument at all, “Today, my best friend slapped me in my face.” Then, they continued their journey. Subsequently, after a while, they found an oasis for which they were encouraged to take a bath. However, the one who had been slapped started to drown.
Fortunately, he was saved by his friend. Upon recovering, he took a stone and wrote, “Today, my best friend saved my life.” The one who slapped and saved the other was invited to ask, “Why is it that when I slapped you, you wrote in the sand and when I saved you, you wrote on a stone?” The friend replied, “When someone has hurt you, you should write it in sand where the winds of forgiveness can easily erase it. But when someone does something good to you, you must engrave it on a stone where no wind can ever erase it nor obliterate.”
What is forgiveness? Psychologists would define it “as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.”1 Our Gospel this Sunday, September 15, 2019, from St. Luke (15:1-32) speaks about forgiveness. It is said, “Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’” Then, Jesus narrated the Parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Prodigal Son.
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, Jesus encourages us this week to learn how to forgive even if it is certainly tough and our offender is not worthy of it at all. But, it is also important to understand that forgiveness is not forgetting the pain that others have inflicted on you. It also does not mean returning to the previous level of smooth and uninterrupted relationships. Rather, it is a way of releasing negative feelings or thoughts that prevent a person from moving forward.
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH GOOD PEOPLE. One of the ways to be able to express or to seek forgiveness is to situate ourselves in the company of positive, good and happy people who can enrich us and help us from getting stuck in a heartbreaking situation.
A year before my graduation in Theology, God placed me in the most challenging moment in my fourteen straight years of seminary formation. I thought it would already be the end of my vocation and of everything that I had worked so hard for. I even came to the point of dropping out of my studies and dissertation. Nevertheless, God works in mysterious ways in which I encountered a lot of good-hearted people who helped me to calm down and think of better ways to move forward. They assisted me to see the bright side of the situation so as not to compromise my goals. Sooner or later, I was able to forgive those who had caused me such an uncomfortable situation for they served as instruments to make me much stronger, humble and determined to work as God’s servant. We cannot forgive our offenders and even ourselves alone. Forgiveness is more than just a personal endeavor or self-activity. We need people who can gently back us up to see the light at the end of the dark tunnel.
Finally, let me share with you the words of Jonathan Lockwood Huie, “Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.”