A Daily Gospel Reflection by Dn. Paul & Ana Machuca for August 17th, 2023

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.

Reflection: Do you recall a time you were hurt so badly by someone that you swore at that moment you would never forget much less forgive them?  The feeling of betrayal or pain was so intense and so bitter that you thought you would never recover, but you did, sort of.  Who doesn’t have baggage that includes such experiences.  The sad part is that as much as we would like to deny it, we continue to struggle with the damage caused by another, often someone close to us.  

Yesterday, Ana and I celebrated 43 years of marriage.  Like everyone else we have had our share of ups and downs.  The good news is that the good times have far exceeded the bad.  But the pain we have endured because of bad decisions and selfish behavior have left scars that remind us of how far we can go toward the dark side of human nature.  

Yes, 43 years of good times and bad times, high highs, and low lows.  Paul and I have come to realize and recently heard our pastor, Father Ed, express that God is always present in our lives. He is not only there when we are struggling but also in times of joy and peace.  We call upon Him in times when we need to reconcile and find that peace and joy once again.  Fortunately, we have been blessed through our involvement in different ministries which enrich our sacrament of matrimony and by couples who also have God in their lives.  

In today’s gospel we hear Jesus talk about a much different standard when it comes to forgiveness.  And it is no surprise that the standard is outside of our human capacity.  It is a divine standard that emphasizes the ideal of perfection.  To put Jesus’ response to how many times we should forgive another, the answer is always.  The good news is we are not to rely on our abilities but on the grace that God provides us everyday and in every moment of need.  Forgiveness requires a human effort fortified by divine presence.      

Action of the day: Dig into the abyss that is our past hurts that are locked away because we don’t want to deal with them.  If we are to be true disciples of Jesus we must strive to follow him.  Maybe it’s time to allow the grace, that only God can provide, to facilitate forgiveness and wash away the darkness that clouds our path to true joy.  Let go of the garbage that keeps us from swimming freely into the vast ocean of grace our Lord provides to all who walk in His ways.

Audio Reflection:

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