Forgiveness

Matthew 18: 21-35
2 Kgs 5: 1-15 / Ps 42

Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’
(Matthew 18:33)

Is there a way we can repay
Our debt of sins that God forgave?
We must forgive without delay
No wrong could ever be that grave!

Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” (Mat.18: 21-35)

Reflection

In Peter’s mind, forgiving a wrongdoer up to seven times was already beyond the bar of the Jewish standard. Jesus’ answer to forgive “seventy-seven times” must have sounded as hyperbolic as the parable of the unforgiving servant that He related. But our Lord was not only referring to the indefinite number of times we must forgive, but to the amount of the debt or the severity of the sin committed against us. The enormous amount owed by the servant brings out the parallel debt of Christ’s own passion and death for our salvation, which we can never repay. Which points to the absurdity of those who have received the full gift of forgiveness from God, yet refuse to forgive the mere “one hundred denarii” owed them by their neighbors. Jesus said in an earlier chapter: ‘If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions’ (Mt.6:14-15).

Jesus wants us to forgive without limit. Surely in our lifetime God must have forgiven our sins more than seven hundred times! And yet how many times have we refused to forgive a neighbor, a relative, an elder, a friend and an enemy in our lifetime? In God’s eyes, our bitterness and feelings of injustice must have seemed so childish and ridiculously exaggerated, compared to the torture and death that His own Son had to endure for the forgiveness of all our sins.

Who are we to demand recompense for wrongs committed against us when we ourselves can never make amends for all our offenses against God? How can we ask for His forgiveness if we cannot forgive others, even our enemies? How can we erase our sins or heal the guilt if we keep nurturing them in our hearts? Human as we are, there will always be times when we fall short and hurt others, who may be our friends or enemies. For the sake of peace and harmony, we may have to ask for their forgiveness. That is why our Lord advises us that we must always be disposed to forgive other people every time they ask for it.

Thank You, Lord, for making us realize that the best option is forgiveness, because it releases the sinner from the bondage of sin, and destroys the enmity that the evil one wants to propagate. Search our hearts and take away whatever unforgiveness we may still be harboring within. Amen.

Comments are closed.