Forgiveness as a Way of Life

Sep 12, 2017

Gospel Reflection, 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A
Sirach 27:30 – 28:7; Romans 14: 7-9; Matthew 18: 21-35

Forgiveness as a Way of Life

If we are to offer fraternal correction – Jesus spoke about this in last week’s gospel – then we must certainly forgive one another as well.  But how often? 
Peter wants to know.  We have limits and everything has an end at some point.  Forgiveness does as well, right?  But if we draw limits to forgiveness, then, Jesus says, God will also limit his mercy.  Beyond this limit, only God’s judgment remains, and none of us can successfully stand before God’s judgment.  In order to make this clear to us, Jesus tells us a drastic parable.

He tells us the parable of how a man owes a king a large sum of money and cannot possibly repay the debt.  He begs the king to be patient with him and the king has pity on him and releases him and forgives him of the debt.  But this same servant has a fellow servant who owes him a much smaller amount.  He fails to forgive him, seizes him by the throat, and says, “Pay back what you owe.”  How can he already have forgotten all that was forgiven him in the next moment and treat his fellow servant so inhumanely and brutally?

So it is a question of forgiving.  What, after all, is the debt we have to settle with one another compared to our state of guilt before God?  If God is so infinitely
generous with us, then should we not let go of the petty scores we have with one another and forgive each other?

It is not so easy and we develop this habit as a way of life.  A habit is something that becomes easier the more we do it.  It is not so easy because more often than not, we feel the insult done to us more painfully than our own guilt before God.  The wrong done to us does hurt and sticks in our memory and rises to the surface again and again.  My ingratitude to God, however, I hardly notice, so I think about it very little.

It is against this deception that Jesus directs his parable.  If God did want to settle scores with us exactly as we have, it would look frightening.  How do we get out of this self-deception?  But forgiving your brother and sister from the heart.  Not just one time or seven times or even 77 times, but again and again as a way of life.  And we will trust God that we will feel peace and cheerfulness in our hearts and thankfully begin to understand that God is infinitely kinder to us than we ever were to those around us.

Father Tony