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?
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 your brother from your heart.”
Good News Reflection:
Jesus’ message In this Sunday’s Gospel reading explains a line from the “Our Father” prayer he had taught earlier (Matthew 6:12): “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”
The strongest word here is “AS” — the same as, just like, in equal measure.
If there is anyone we have not forgiven, if there is anyone we cannot pray for with love, we’d better keep our mouths shut during this part of the prayer to our Father, who is the Father of all.
Sometimes, it’s difficult to forgive because we think “forgiving” means “forgetting”. Jesus never said that we must forget what the debtor owes. Forgiveness means remembering — and learning from the memory — without demanding repayment or retribution.
Unforgiveness is a form of punishment: it’s payback time. For example, if we remain angry, we hope that our anger or coldness will somehow punish the sinner into repentance. Well, guess what. That never works.
Here’s something else we do that never works: holding a grudge to protect ourselves from getting hurt again. Grudges do not free us from the pain of bad memories. It chains us to them.
When we free others from the debts they owe us for hurting us (whether they seek it or not, whether they’re still alive or not), we free ourselves and our healing begins — OUR healing!
It’s the most loving gift that we can give to ourselves, as it’s a gift of love to others. Even when they don’t recognize our gift, God does.
Questions for Personal Reflection:
Who angers you because they don’t deserve your forgiveness? What are you gaining from unforgiveness and resentment? What will you lose if you forgive?
Questions for Community Faith Sharing:
What is the most difficult part of forgiveness? What steps do you take for pushing yourself into truly letting go of unforgiveness so you can find healing? Sharing this with others will spread good ideas that could change someone’s life!
My Father, I ask You to grant me the grace of having a deep and sincere relationship with You. May Your love start bearing fruit in me, forgiving others and being merciful to them. Amen.
© 2017 by Terry A. Modica