The Gospel according to Matthew (18:21-19:1)
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who 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 bags of gold 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. At this 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 silver coins. 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 it 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 outraged 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 handed 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 or sister from your heart.” When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan.
Reflection: When my 20-year-old grandson was about 3 or 4 we had a classic stand-off, a war of the wills. His mother was off doing errands and he was at home with me. I do not remember the reason he got in trouble, but I will never forget how I sat him on a one of our steps and told him he could not move until he apologized. We sat on that step for what seemed like an hour. Eventually he relented but I could not believe the tenacity in holding his ground at such an early age.
Isn’t this how we are when it comes to forgiveness? We can hold onto grudges forever! Unfortunately, sometimes for our entire lives. We may even forget the offense but not the thoughts and feelings that justify the punishment we impose on those responsible. I once heard Father Greg Boyle say that injured people injure people. That made a lot of sense. Why else do we keep repeating the same vicious cycle of hurting someone or getting hurt, move on, then do it again… We keep collecting all the big and little hurts and become and injured soul who is sensitive and quick to jump to conclusions.
Today’s Gospel can be very difficult because we can all relate to the servant who showed no mercy to his debtor. But I invite us to focus on the mercy of God. The first servant owed his Master ten thousand bags of gold. An amount that makes one think his debt can never be repaid. He, on the other hand is owed a miniscule amount, in comparison. Yet the Master forgives the servant who does the opposite when given the chance to be merciful like his master. Sounds all too familiar, yes. Although the unmerciful servant did eventually face the consequences for his actions, we must not forget the Master’s initial mercy. To forgive such a massive debt required a mercy born of a deep and passionate love, the source of all grace.
Action of the Day: Forgiveness isn’t about forgeting, it’s about letting go of the hurt so it can do no more damage to you or anyone. Today is the day to forgive. There is some little or big hurt that needs to be released. God’s grace will help us do what may seem impossbile. Be merciful, forgive and allow the peace that surpasses all understading to heal us.