“So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart” (Mt 18:35)
In my reflection on August 17, I shared that we do not do forgiveness well, yet, Jesus is very clear with this parable that we need to. Our salvation depends on it! Go ahead, click the link below and read the parable. We are to forgive because God has forgiven us, over and over again, and he will continue to over and over again. If we repent and are contrite, showing genuine sorrow for our sin, God will forgive us. As I learned from Pastor Barry Johnson when he was still the pastor at Jupiter First Church: “God loves us more than we can ever mess up.”
Jesus is clear throughout the Gospels and in today’s parable that God will forgive us, the issue at hand though is that we need to also forgive as God has forgiven us. The servant in this parable was forgiven his massive debt by the king. Shortly thereafter this same servant had the opportunity to forgive someone who owed him a much smaller debt, a no brainer that the servant would act in kind, yet, he did no such thing. He strangled his debtor, and when asked to be patient, he offered none and had the man placed in prison.
Our lives are emblematic of this parable. God has not only had compassion on us, and set us free, as does the king, he has forgiven us our debts as sinners. More amazing he paid our debts through offering the death of his Son. Through that payment, we are the recipients of such mercy, grace, and forgiveness that we will never fully grasp and comprehend, and it is in an unlimited, infinite wellspring that we can draw from again and again. Waking up each day with gratitude for the gift of our life is a good start, yet, how many of us actually take the time to be thankful for the life we have? But Jesus reminds us that not only are we to be thankful, but we are also to be forgiving, remembering this forgiveness that we have received. We are to be patient with one another, we are to assume a stance of understanding and support, not one of condemnation and hardness of heart.
We don’t do forgiveness well, but we need to. Maybe we don’t do so well because we do not avail ourselves of this wonderful gift we have been given. We stay mired in our own self-guilt or pity, we stay too busy to be aware, or we compare – I am not as bad as… Make some time daily to examine your conscience, confess those sins to God, and ask for his forgiveness. For those reading this reflection that are Catholic, we have the gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation – which is a gift, not a dress down! There have been times I have walked out of the confessional feeling as if a massive weight has been lifted. The only comparison I can think of is when I have had an asthma attack in the past, and needed a shot of adrenaline, within minutes there was a feeling of such peace. Yet there have been a few grace-filled confessions that surpassed even that visit to the hospital, and I still stay away from the sacrament for months.
Along with seeking God’s forgiveness, let us start practicing forgiveness with one another. Just as a weight was lifted when I have experienced forgiveness, there is such freedom when we let go of a grudge or hurt we have held onto and forgiven another. When people apologize, change the habit of saying, “That’s alright” to “I forgive you.” Go up to someone and ask them to forgive you for something that you have done. It will make a difference. And if you are asking, as did Peter, how much are we to forgive? This answer is “Seventy-seven times seven”, or every opportunity we can. As we begin to experience forgiveness, maybe we will, not be like the servant in today’s parable, but start to be more patient, understanding, and forgiving of one another. There is freedom in forgiveness!
Photo credit: Jack McKee
Link for the Mass readings for the day: