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A sermon on Matthew 18:21-35

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Fr. Mike Paraniuk

By Fr. Mike Paraniuk
St. Mary Catholic Church (Hillsboro,
St. Benignus Catholic Church (Greenfield),
Saint Mary Queen of Heaven Catholic Church (Peebles)
Holy Trinity Catholic Church (West Union)

I preached a weekday sermon at Mary Queen of Heaven Church in Peebles, Ohio about an injustice done to me and my brother and sister. I shared the pain we felt being cheated out of thousands of dollars from my father's will. 

How do I forgive someone who admits to no wrongdoing nor feels any remorse?  

When the sermon ended, a woman approached me. She offered me very wise advice. "Father Mike, you must let it go. Don't let the past hurt cheat you of happiness now." Her words gave me peace more than she will ever know.

Forgiveness means letting go of your need to punish or seek payback. Then you are free to enjoy the blessings in your life now without being shackled by resentment and anger. The price I would pay to hold onto my hurt would be far more than the money I lost.

There is a far more important reason to forgive than just a desire to be happy. Jesus says how you treat others is how God will treat you. If you claim your right to punish someone who hurt you, then God will claim His right to punish you. But when you show mercy, God will shower His mercy on you. I learned the blessing of mercy as a child when I did something really bad.

My cousin Christon and myself got brand new bikes for our birthdays. My rich aunt got me this cool, chrome-plated bike from Sears. Christon got a fast Schwinn bike painted fire engine red. He challenged me to a race. We met on a Saturday at a back-alley street. It was paved with cinders but good for racing as there were no curves. 

My bike flew down that street like a shooting flame. I was winning the race, confident of victory. But tragedy struck. A little girl was playing in a sandbox near our racetrack. She got out of the box and walked onto the street. She did not see our bikes. I tried to stop, but I was going too fast. I hit her head on. She got lodged in my bike. I dragged her for several feet over the cinders. All I remember is that she was crying and screaming. She got up and ran away, but I didn't know where.

I was so traumatized that I forgot to tell my dad what happened. I just blanked out the accident. Eventually, the mother found out it was me who ran over her daughter. My dad was furious thinking that I purposely tried to hide this from him. He ordered me to go to that mother and apologize for what I had done.

I remember approaching the house where the little girl lived. I was so scared. Each step I took grew heavier and heavier. With a lump in my throat, I knocked on the door. My heart sank when I saw my victim who opened the door.

The girl was covered with bandages on her legs and arms. Those cinders did a number on her. Then I saw her mother. I thought, "I'll never come out of this alive." 

Mom spoke first. She said, "Sit down at the table." I expected her to yell at me. The little girl said, "Mommy and I have something to give you." I pictured being flogged, or maybe beaten with a paddle.

Instead, to my surprise, the mother walked over to the oven. She brought out a whole tray of freshly baked oatmeal raisin cookies. (This is when I first fell in love with those cookies.) 

We sat down together at the kitchen table, eating cookies and drinking milk. They never gave me a chance to apologize. The girl said, "I told mommy you didn't mean to hurt me. We made you cookies to show we're not mad at you."

That day I learned mercy. That day I learned what it means to "forgive from the heart." Forgiveness from the heart is a way of life that has no limit and offered freely to those who ask. 

My father was not quite so forgiving. He agreed to pay for the girl's doctor fee. He showed me the bill and said, "Look how much this cost me!" I looked at the bill. It was a whopping $35!

I'm thankful Jesus paid my bill that cost much more than that. 

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