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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Looby

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2023

I hate to sound like a broken record, but once again, we find ourselves reflecting on the boundless theme of forgiveness in today’s gospel.

Last week, as you may recall we heard Jesus giving his disciples the authority to bind and loose and to forgive sins. We heard about an extraordinary story of an Amish community forgiving a man who killed several young members of their community in their one room schoolhouse.

And now this week, just like a ‘broken record’ would incessantly repeat a fragment of a song, playing the same notes over and over without progress Jesus urges us to embody this repetitive, unyielding nature of a broken record when it comes to forgiveness, emphasizing that we must forgive not just seven times, but a resounding seventy-seven times.

It's a lesson that urges us to not just forgive and move on, but to forgive continuously.

This is what God does for us right? We can always count on God forgiving us when we ask for his mercy, but it is not so easy for us to let go of the memories of the pain inflicted on us by others. That’s the point of the parable that Jesus tells in the gospel today about the King who settled debts.

We often take the boundless mercy of our king, God, for granted. God's grace is always available to us, forgiving us over and over again, just like a broken record. Yet, when the roles are reversed, we often find ourselves hesitating, holding back in forgiving others.

Our human nature nudges us to hold on to grudges, to remember wrongs, rather than to embrace the liberating power of forgiveness. We might find ourselves recounting the times we were hurt, nursing wounds from words uttered years ago, or finding it hard to let go of a transgression. In these moments, it seems almost insurmountable to release the burden of resentment, to break the cycle and choose the path of forgiveness.

Yet, we are reminded that in letting go, in choosing the path of forgiveness, we not only release the other from their debt but we also free ourselves, allowing our hearts to find peace and grace. It is not an easy task, but it is a divine calling, a journey towards emulating the boundless mercy and love of our Creator.

In this endeavor, we can perhaps find inspiration and strength in the life and words of Immaculée Ilibagiza, who embodies the spirit of forgiveness at a depth most of us can scarcely imagine.

Immaculée is a remarkable woman who survived the Rwandan genocide in 1994. During this brutal period, ethnic tensions escalated horrifically, resulting in the massacre of nearly 800,000 people.

Immaculée endured unimaginable fear and loss, spending 91 terrifying days hiding in a tiny bathroom with seven other women, constantly under the shadow of death.

Despite losing most of her family and witnessing atrocities that words can barely describe, Immaculée embarked on an extraordinary journey of forgiveness.

Year later, she stood face to face with the man who took the lives of her mother and one of her brothers. In a moment that can only be described as divine, she forgave him.

This profound act of mercy not only showcased the transformative power of forgiveness but also epitomized the essence of Christ’s teachings; urging us to forgive not just seven times, but seventy-seven times.

She said later, "After I survived the genocide, there was a period where I doubted humanity. I doubted not just the people around me, but even myself. Could I be good again? Was there a possibility of goodness in this world? It was in forgiving those who wronged me and my family that I found the answer. Yes, there was goodness, and it began with forgiveness. Forgiveness is the seed from which the flower of healing and hope blooms."

Imagine, if all of us could embrace the forgiving repetitiveness that Jesus teaches us, how harmonious our lives could be.

Perhaps, in the realm of forgiveness, a 'broken record' is precisely what we need to HEAR and NEED TO BE – continually, tirelessly, echoing the divine call to forgive, to heal, and to love, over and over and over again.

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