A reading from the gospel according to Matthew 18:21-35:
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 him 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 your brother from your heart.”
For the Jews, the number seven (7) is a symbol of wholeness or completeness. God rested on the seventh day which means creation has been completed. On the other hand, seventy-seven means no limitation. The term sevenfold and seventy-sevenfold are first encountered in Genesis 4:24 where Lamech, a descendant of Cain, mentions avenging Cain seven times and himself seventy-seven times. We can understand then that Jesus wants to end the cycle of violence by means of forgiveness.
Let us think about how many times God forgives us. Can we ever count it? Nope, it is unlimited. He loves us so much as to make us and He loves us so much as to send His only son to die for us. That is why even if we sin again and again, God does not stop loving us. He is always ready to forgive us and accept us. Indeed, it is really love that makes forgiveness possible. Without love, we cannot forgive.
If God then is ready to forgive us, why is it so difficult for man to forgive? Man is endowed with memory that brings back both the good and the bad part of the past. Man is also endowed with the power to defend himself. So when the bad part of the past, say someone hurt him, his tendency is to make sure the hurt is not repeated. Worse, pride drives some people to get even. For them it is easier to revenge than to forgive. Additionally, Man has a difficulty to live in the present. His memory of the past and his fear of the future make it hard for him to let go and move on.
Yet, forgiveness is the only way for men and women to live in harmony. Without forgiveness, there is no peace. Let that sink in. If you don’t forgive, you will have no peace. Just some people say, it more about you, not about the other person.
Here are some famous quotes that will hopefully help us understand and appreciate the need for forgiveness:
1. The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. – Mahatma Gandhi
2. Forgiveness is not a feeling – it’s a decision we make because we want to do what’s right before God. – Joyce Meyer
3. Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future. – Paul Boose
4. To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love. In return, you will receive untold peace and happiness. – Robert Muller
5. Let us forgive each other – only then will we live in peace. – Leo Tolstoy
6. Forgiveness is a sign that the people who have wronged you means more to you than the wrong they have dealt. – Ben Greenhalgh
7. Forgiveness isn’t approving what happened. It’s choosing to rise above it. – Robin Sharma