21 June 2007 Thursday of the 11th Week in Ordinary Time
Matthew 6 12, 14, 15 The Sense of Sin
Forgive us our sins, as we forgive our debtors…
There are many things to be said about this prayer that Jesus taught us, but for this mass, let us focus on sins. I believe that before we can even pray for forgiveness, we must have the sense of sin. This ‘sense of sin’ is slowly being eroded by the modern culture of relativism and consumerism. Sometimes we are just too used to the pervading culture that we miss out on sins.
Moreover, many of us in church may not belong to the ‘common’ group of sinners. We find the thieves, rapists, murderers, adulterers, cheats and corrupt officials sinners. Many of us are not like them: we live ordinary lives in UP, never appeared in court, never been imprisoned or never brought to the disciplinary board for prosecution. Many of us have been very conscientious Catholics, receiving daily communion and going to frequent confessions. Many of our lives have practically revolved around spiritual activities. And we sometimes think, that as we continue to be good and faithful churchgoers, we have been stained for only a few drops by sin, while, the others have been drenched by transgressions. And thus, since we say that we are better, let us take a second look.
There are several words that are used in Greek to describe sin: hamartia (missing the target), parabasis (stepping across), paraptōma (slipping out), anomia (lawlessness), and opheilēma (debt). Let me just take two of these words.
First, opheilēma. In the Our Father, the word used is opheilēma or debt. Thus, sin means the failure to pay what is due. At the very least, a person — whether friend or foe — deserve respect. When Jesus commanded us to love our enemies, He used the word, agape, which means that we accord another person what is due to human beings. He did not demand that we will love them as we love those who are intimate to us, or friend to us (eros or philia).
Second, paraptōma. Paraptōma means slipping out. When one walks on a slippery road and suddenly flips over, it is called paraptōma. Some sins are caused by being swept away by strong emotions or passions that has gained control of us that we lose all rationality and power over them. We hear this, “Nakalimot kami sa aming sarili. Nadala kami sa aming mga damdamin.”
When we pray, “forgive us our debts as we forgive those who sinned against us.” We are actually saying, “Forgive us our sins in proportion as we forgive those who sinned against us.” Thus, when we come to confession to ask for forgiveness, but when we say that “we can never forgive so-and-so for what he or she has done for me,” we are actually asking God not to forgive us. It is said that forgiveness and peace are one and indivisible. Human and Divine forgiveness are one. Forgiveness is both human and divine as peace is both human and divine. Forgiveness of our fellow persons and God’s forgiveness cannot be separated; they are linked; they are interdependent.
If one looks at it, forgiveness and peace is proper to human beings: we are human, but we also possess the divine because we are God’s children.