“So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart” (Mt 18:35)
Unfortunately for many of us, 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? Jesus reminds us that not only are we to be thankful but we are also to be forgiving, remembering the 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 the 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…
Wallowing in our guilt is not what Jesus asks of us. He calls us to humility and a healthy awareness of when we miss the mark of living a life of service and following the will of God. We are to examine our conscience daily to acknowledge what we have done and what we have failed to do, confess, commit to do better and begin again. For those who have access to the Sacrament of Reconciliation – which is a gift of mercy, not a dress down, there is great healing available.
There have been times I have walked out of the confessional feeling as if a massive weight has been lifted. A comparison I can think of is when I had an asthma attack that was not being relieved by my normal intake of inhaler. After receiving a shot of adrenaline from the doctor, within minutes I felt such relief and peace. Even though there have been a few grace-filled confessions that surpassed even that visit to the hospital, I still stay away from the healing sacrament for months.
When we begin to experience God’s forgiveness more we might be better able to offer more understanding and forgiveness with one another. There is a lightness and a peace when we let go of a grudge or hurt we have held onto, especially those we have held onto for a long time. One small action that can help us to better forgive is to change the habit of saying, “That’s alright” to “I forgive you” when someone apologizes.
If you are wondering now, as did Peter, how much are we to forgive? The answer is the same for us, “Seventy-seven times seven”, or every opportunity we can. Hopefully, we will begin to let go of the tight grip we have on our biases, prejudices, and judgments and unlike the wicked servant recognize that in heaven and under heaven we are all brothers and sisters and say yes to our loving God and Father’s invitation of love. Will we receive his love, and will we share his love?
Photo credit: Jack McKee