The Gospel according to Matthew (18:21-19-1)
Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt. At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’ Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan. When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison until he paid back the debt. Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.” When Jesus finished these words, he left Galilee and went to the district of Judea across the Jordan.
Opening Prayer: Lord, bless me as I ponder your words today in Scripture. Help me to conform my heart more closely to yours.
Encountering Christ: To “Forgive and Forget” is a popular and recognizable phrase that is intended on helping us heal from hurt caused by another. Although well intentioned it is both not practical and misses an opportunity for growth. Some may think or profess that this saying is biblically based but that is only half right.
We can find an endless number of teachings, sayings, quotes regarding forgiveness of sins in Holy Scripture. Of this there is absolutely NO doubt. However, the “forget” part of this saying needs careful analysis. When it comes to God’s forgiveness of our sins, I am drawn to the reassuring words in Psalm 103:12 “As far as east is from the west, so far has he removed our sins from us.” And, also, Isaiah 43:25 “It is I, I, who wipe out, for my own sake, your offenses; your sins I remember no more.” God, our creator, who sent his Redeemer is able and willing to separate us from the destruction of sin and only he is able to forget it as well. We on the other hand are not capable of forgetting and for good reason.
From the moment we reach the age of reason until the day we die we have the ongoing opportunity to learn, grow, evolve mentally and spiritually. One of the ways we do this is to learn from our mistakes as well as those around us. When we forgive, we certainly do not ever forget how hurt we were, but we also have the gift of remembering the process and moment when we decided to forgive another. This is grace at work. This is our cooperation with the Son of God who taught us and showed us how we are to forgive. Not with an “eye for an eye” mentality but with the beautiful yet challenging words of Jesus in today’s Gospel “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”
We are called to forgive always but let’s not forget how we are able to do so. It is with the grace of God, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the intercession of the Holy Spirit, our acceptance of the gift of forgiveness and our collaboration with this grace that we can accomplish the impossible. We can overcome the deepest hurt, betrayal, offense and go from death to life. This can and should happen countless times in our lives.
Jesus uses many interesting and thought-provoking examples to explain what heaven is like. This one goes right the heart of our belief in God. He loves us so much that he sent His only son, for the forgiveness of our sins, so that we might not perish but have eternal life.
Closing Prayer: Dear merciful Lord help us not to forget and always remember that you are the reason we can forgive. It is your grace that creates in us a new heart. One that has the capacity to love as you do and to forgive as you do. Thank you for your endless love and compassion.
Action for the Day: This one is pretty much a no brainer. Let us search our hearts for an unresolved hurt that calls us to forgive the transgressor. Let’s remember a previous moment we were able to forgive another and recall the grace that was present and became a part of who we are, a beloved child of God.