The homily of the Apostolic Nuncio, Chapel of the Apostolic Nunciature, Delhi 17 September 2017

First Reading: Ecclesiasticus 27:33-28:9

Second Reading: Romans 14:7-9

Gospel: Matthew 18:21-35

In the Gospel of this Twenty-fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Peter asks Jesus the questions: "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times”? Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven’".

"Seventy times seven": with this reply the Lord wants to make it clear to Peter and to us that we should set no limit to our forgiveness of others. Just as the Lord is always be ready to forgive us, so we must always be ready to forgive one another.

The Lord establishes forgiveness and love as the criteria for belonging to the Father: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 5.44–45; cf. 18.21). Taking up this concept, Paul warns: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom 12.21).

Jesus asks us to believe that forgiveness is the door which leads to reconciliation. In telling us to forgive our brothers unreservedly, he is asking us to do something utterly radical, but he also gives us the grace to do it. What appears, from a human perspective, to be impossible, impractical and even at times repugnant, he makes possible and fruitful through the infinite power of his cross and his grace. The cross of Christ reveals the power of God to bridge every division, to heal every wound, and to re-establish the original bonds of brotherly love.

And how great is the need for forgiveness and reconciliation in our world today - indeed in our communities and families, in our very own hearts!

That is why the special sacrament of the Church for forgiveness, the Sacrament of Penance, is such a precious gift from the Lord.

In the Sacrament of Penance, God extends his forgiveness to us in a very personal way. Through the ministry of the priest, we come to our loving Saviour with the burden of our sins. We confess that we have sinned against God and our neighbour. We manifest our sorrow and ask for pardon from the Lord. Through the priest, we hear Christ say to us: "Your sins are forgiven", "Go, and do not sin again" (Io. 8, 11).

Can we not also hear him say to us as we are filled with his saving grace: "Extend to others, seventy times seven, this same forgiveness and mercy"?

This is the work of the Church in every age - it is the duty of each one of us to profess and proclaim God’s mercy in all its truth, to extend to whomever we meet each day the same unlimited forgiveness that we have received from Christ.

We practice mercy, too, when we "bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience" (Eph. 4, 2).

On this day of the Lord when we celebrate the fullest expression of God’s abundant mercy - the Cross and Resurrection of Christ - let us praise our God who is rich in mercy. And, in imitation of his great love, let us forgive anyone who may have hurt us in any way.

With the Blessed Mother of God, we proclaim the mercy of God which extends from generation to generation.