Forgiven and Forgiving

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Thursday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Matthew 18:21-19:1

Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. That is why the Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. 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. At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’ Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.”

Opening Prayer: Lord, your words speak of forgiveness. Open my heart during these moments of prayer so that I may see more clearly where I need to forgive and be forgiven.

Encountering Christ: 

  1. God Bless Peter: Throughout the Scriptures, Saint Peter always seemed to ask the questions on everyone’s mind. “How often must I forgive…?” Peter knew, as we all do, that forgiveness can be difficult, very difficult. In those days, the law prescribed threefold forgiveness, so Peter was being magnanimous by suggesting forgiveness “seven times.” In truth, as the old adage goes, “To err is human, to forgive is divine.” Jesus knows that we are unable to forgive on our own strength. We can forgive only through the Holy Spirit’s power within us. And, the act of forgiving must be repeated by our will as often as the anger, resentfulness, etc., surfaces in our emotions. Come Holy Spirit.
  2. The Character of the Master: When we’ve been hurt, forgiveness is often the last thing on our mind. Prayerfully reflecting on the character of our Master is the surest way to tap into the Spirit so that our hearts can soften as a prelude to forgiveness. Like the Master in the parable, God the Father does not exact what we owe him in justice, rather he deals with us mercifully. To the degree that we grasp what he has done for us, (by sending his Son to die for our sins) we will be able to more easily forgive others. 
  3. We Are the Debtors: Whether we’ve sinned grievously or have tried to live by the commandments, the chasm between God and us cannot be crossed by our human effort. Only by Our Lord’s Death and Resurrection do we have access to the Father. Every time we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Our Lord bridges the chasm so that we can approach the Father worthily. Like the debtor in the Lord’s parable, we say, “Be patient with me Lord…” but we know we cannot pay our debts in full. That’s why we are eternally grateful to Jesus.

Conversing with Christ: Lord, please deepen my understanding of the sacrifice you made on the Cross for me, and its consequences in my life. Help me to grow in profound gratitude. With this disposition, I will be empowered to forgive others as you so often forgive me.

Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will check my heart to see if there remains any unforgiveness and ask you for the grace to remedy that situation and/or repair the relationship.

For Further Reflection: Say your favorite Act of Contrition with the intention of growing in gratitude for Christ’s forgiveness. Here is the most traditional version: O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee; and I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.

Written by Maribeth Harper.

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