Today’s Gospel: Matthew 18:21-35
In the book of Matthew, Peter asks Jesus, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” The fisherman’s human nature itched to set a limit. Forgive someone eight times? Next they’ll be hurting you nine times, ten…or more!
But Jesus gives a tough answer: forgive “seventy-seven times.”
Oh, it’s easy to keep inventory, etching in mental granite this hurt and wrong, that wound and scar. Forget it, says Jesus. Forgive. And here’s the tough part – forgive “from the heart.”
Catholic radio personality and psychologist Ray Guarendi notes how people want mercy from God, but justice for their neighbor.
Look at the indebted servant in today’s Gospel. When his master demanded payment, the servant begged for and received clemency. But from another who owed him money, the servant harshly demanded payment. Hearing the tale, the master threw his ungrateful servant into jail until he could pay his impossibly high debt.
How easy it is to harshly regard a neighbor’s debts, to lack a forgiving heart. At a conference, attendees were asked to close their eyes, and mentally invite someone who had most hurt them to pull up a chair. I joined the exercise, imagining myself chatting with one of the “villains” in my life story, and choosing to forgive. I filled many chairs in my mind that morning. I even jotted names in my notebook. Ok, I’ve forgiven this person and that one…
I then trotted down the hall to Confession, telling the priest, “I’ve been bearing unforgiveness toward more than a dozen people!”
What a ridiculous waste of energy, to coddle hurts for so long in a life too short. It’s humbling to recall that we could easily fill another’s “forgiveness chair!”
Do we beg God’s mercy on ourselves but God’s justice for our neighbor? Do we approach the Eucharist nursing an unforgiving spirit and neglecting to ask pardon for our sins?
Dear Lord, spare us from the perverse pride of the ungrateful servant. Help us realize how lavishly You love and forgive us, and that You have borne the punishment for our sins, so that we may freely forgive and love others.
We thank our friends at The Word Among Us for providing our gospel reflection team with copies of Abide In My Word 2015: Mass Readings at Your Fingertips. To pray the daily gospels with this wonderful resource, visit The Word Among Us.
Copyright 2015 Marianna Bartholomew