USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew.
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.
Good News Reflection: How many times is seventy times seven?
Peter speaks for each one of us in today’s Gospel passage when he says, “How many times am I supposed to forgive the jerk who keeps sinning? After seven times, if he’s still a jerk, what’s the point in forgiving him again?”
“No, not seven times,” Jesus says, “seventy times that much, which, according to the calculator on my Father’s desk in heaven, is infinite.”
We’d rather only forgive people if they “go and sin no more.” But waiting for their repentance is harmful to us. When we choose to pray “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing,” we break the chains of anger that bind us to what they did. We’re no longer a victim of the incident that hurt us. The wounds of our heart and spirit are healed, because we receive directly from Jesus the love that was supposed to come from those who sinned against us.
Forgiveness, like love, is a decision, not a feeling. It begins with an honest prayer: “Father, I don’t want to forgive them, but I choose to forgive them. I ask You to forgive them, too. And please forgive me for holding onto my resentment, anger or bitterness.” You’ve already been praying this whenever you recite the “Our Father.” Jesus taught us to pray, “Father, forgive us as we forgive others.” He did not add, “Unless, of course, they don’t want to stop sinning.”
Who is the person in your life who is hardest to forgive? Most likely, the answer is you. If you cannot forgive yourself, you won’t feel safe forgiving others. How readily do you forgive yourself? As readily as God does? Take this quiz to find out:
- Do I ever get angry at myself and take more than a day to feel good about myself again?
- Do I try to cover up my blunders with lies or by redirecting the focus off of myself?
- Do I get defensive when someone indicates that I’m not a perfectly good person?
- Do I blame others even when I am responsible?
- Do I believe that if people get to know me well enough, they won’t like me anymore?
- Do I examine my conscience only rarely?
- When I realize I have sinned, do I doubt that God forgives me?
- Is this quiz making me feel uncomfortable?
If you answered yes to even one of these questions, you do not forgive yourself as readily as God forgives you. If you answered yes to most or all of them, you have a major problem with self-esteem and need spiritual and/or psychological counseling. You are a great candidate for God’s healing love!
Today, in the name of Jesus, I set free, with the grace of forgiveness, all those who hurt me. Today I decide that, from now on, I’ll try to be as merciful as You, Father, have been merciful with me. Amen.
© 2018 by Terry A. Modica