The Gospel according to Matthew (18:21-35)
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 him 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 your brother from your heart.”
During this Lenten season, our readings remind us of how we are called to treat each other. Today’s Gospel highlights the importance of forgiveness, as that is one of the important things we are to do as members of God’s family.
It can be very hard to forgive. Why is that? It’s because there’s a natural human inclination to want to feel a little bit better about yourself than someone else. To a certain point, that is just good self-esteem. But, we tend to take it to the extreme. The challenge is that, if we forgive, we let go of some of that superiority. Giving up that feeling of superiority is very hard for us humans to do.
When I was growing up, my older sister caused my parents quite a bit of consternation, worry and stress. From the time she was about twelve years old, all the way until she was eighteen, she continually defied their authority, running away from home, hanging out with the “wrong crowd”, and so on. My dad had a very hard time with my sister, I think, because their personalities were so similar (they were both quite stubborn). I think they both refused to be the one to forgive, because of their strong wills. Had one or the other been willing to forgive, their whole relationship would have been so different.
Putting this in terms related to today’s Gospel, God longs to forgive us, and restore us to Himself. The door of forgiveness is always open. But, it has a cost: we have to be willing to extend forgiveness to others who hurt us as well. It’s hard, as I said earlier, but when you compare what it is that God forgives, and then what He asks us to forgive, it’s like the comparison in today’s Gospel: our part is so small, when set next to God’s ocean of mercy.
Lent is a great time to develop the attitude of forgiveness. It’s a time that we can naturally start over and strive to live a more Christ-like life. It won’t necessarily make it any easier to forgive, but God promises to always be with us, and to help us. Can we try to do that? Can we be people of forgiveness and mercy? We can only imagine the change the world may see if more and more are willing to forgive.
Action for the Day: Think of someone whom you have wronged and ask their forgiveness. Then, promise to try and do better in the future!
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