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A Merciful and Forgiving Heart
Memorial of Saint Clare, Virgin
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan.
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, grant me a heart like yours that looks upon each person with magnanimity, compassion, and true reverence. Help me unbind any areas in my life where unforgiveness has me captive.
- “Not Seven Times, But Seventy-Seven Times”: Jesus’ magnanimity surpasses our logic. What we think is generosity is stingy by comparison. He does not hold back his self-giving and he challenges us to do the same. This calls for reflection on our part. Are there relationships in which we hold back kindness, compassion, or true reverence for the person? Where does unforgiveness hold us prisoner?
- “Were You Not Bound to Have Pity”: We look at Jesus on the cross and consider how he endured suffering out of love for us. We ask him what was in his heart as he hung on the cross, and as he continues to suffer in his mystical body the Church. Do we see in him unforgiveness, spite, desire for revenge, hardness of heart towards those who wrong him? Or the contrary? Jesus is magnanimous: “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.” When we feel we have been wronged, even slightly, what is our first inclination? Are we Christlike or spiteful? Do we desire the good of the person over the protection of our ego and vanity?
- “The Master Handed Him over to Be Tortured”: We prefer to not dwell on the justice of God, yet we very much like to be the judge of others. Ironically, he is the only true judge. An excellent meditation is to imagine ourselves before the throne of God on the day of judgment. Do we set ourselves upon that throne or is God upon it? Before the Lord, we ask for the grace to let go of judgments and unforgiveness that enslave our heart. The most perfect act of forgiveness is one done out of love for God and the other. If that can’t be mustered, then we can beg for the grace from our magnanimous Lord.
Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, by the intercession of your Blessed Mother, grant that I may be free of petty grudges and coarse thoughts of others, and heal injured sensitivities so that I may look upon my neighbor with compassion, mercy, and reverence.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will reject thoughts that condemn and judge others and strive to look upon the other with a heart of mercy and compassion.
For Further Reflection: Discernment of Spirits, Rule 9.
Jennifer Ristine is a consecrated woman of Regnum Christi dedicated to spiritual and faith formation through teaching, conferences, writing, and spiritual direction. While serving in Ancient Magdala she wrote Mary Magdalene: Insights from Ancient Magdala and “Nine Days with Mary Magdalene.”