Forgive and Be Forgiven

Matthew 18: 21-35
Dn 3:25,34-43 / Ps 25

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

How we forgive is the measure of
The kind of faith that we proclaim;
By showing mercy we can prove
That God’s forgiveness we can claim.

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 the master ordered that he and his wife and 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. So will my heavenly Father do to you unless each of you forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:21-35)

Reflection

Many of us continue to struggle between our unwillingness to forgive a grave injustice done to us and the demand of Christ’s discipleship to follow His example. As fallen creatures, we try to reason that the wrong done to us must be rectified first, or at least the offender must show some remorse before we can learn how to forgive. But our Lord Jesus never set any conditions when He forgave sinners, and even His torturers in Calvary, when He prayed to the Father, “Forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk.23:34). He even commanded that we should pray for those who persecute us if we truly desire to become children of God (Mat. 5:44-45). He wants us to rise above our human nature and childish imperfection: “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mat.5:48).

When Jesus taught us the perfect prayer, He showed us the direct correlation between being forgiven and our own willingness to forgive others in turn. “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Mat.6:12). How can we ask God to cancel our debts of sin when we cannot cancel the much smaller debt owed us by our fellow servant in our community?

In truth, our capacity to forgive is the true measure of our faith in God. It defines our transformation and journey towards the Divine. Jesus was not exaggerating when He said we must forgive seventy-seven times. The great number simply implies that forgiveness has no limit, and in fact we are to practice and master it as a Christian’s way of life. Surely in our lifetime God has forgiven us for our sins more than seven hundred times! How then can we refuse to forgive a neighbor, a relative, an elder, a friend or even an enemy whenever the occasion calls for it? 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.

Thank You, Lord, for making us realize that we have no other option but to forgive. You told us to pray for those who have offended us so that they may be freed from the bondage of sin, and the enmity that the evil one wants to propagate may be destroyed. Take away whatever grudges we may still be harboring within. Amen.

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