A reading from the gospel according to Matthew 18:21-19:1
21 Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
23 That is why the Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
24 When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
25 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.
26 At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’
27 Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.
28 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.’
29 Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
30 But he refused. Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison until he paid back the debt.
31 Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair.
32 His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
33 Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’
34 Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.
35 So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”
1 When Jesus finished these words, he left Galilee and went to the district of Judea across the Jordan.
Good News: God is patient and ready to forgive us.
Each one of us commits sin countless times and therefore, we always ask God to forgive us. Because He is merciful and patient with us, it does not matter to Him how many times we are forgiven. In fact, it is His will that we come back to Him again and again each time we wander away. Like in the parable of the Prodigal Son, He is always waiting for our return. That is who He is, an ever loving and compassionate Father.
The issue is, whether or not we are like our Father. Though we pray “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” in the “Our Father”, many of us love to harbor grudges, anger and hatred against others. We are like the unforgiving servant in the gospel passage above. We like God to forgive us but we don’t forgive those who sinned against us.
The result of unwillingness to forgive is immediate and long lasting. It is the common source of unhappiness and broken relationship. When we refuse to forgive, we are “handed over to torturers”. So, we encounter mental and emotional tortures. More importantly, our spiritual life is affected. How can you pray to God with a heavy heart?
While it is indeed difficult to forgive those sinned against us most especially those who betrayed us, there is no other recourse but to forgive. That is why we need the help of the Holy Spirit to grant us the gift of humility and courage to forgive. As God shows us mercy, we must show mercy to others.
See also: Matthew 19:3-12 Reflection