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Forgiving Like God
Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent
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. When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt. Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, help me to see hidden within this parable the reality of your mercy. Help me to be able to overcome my unforgiveness and hardness of heart. Only you can heal me so that I can forgive as you do.
- How Many Times Must I Forgive?: The Gospel today continues on the theme of forgiveness and mercy, which permeates the season of Lent. Today’s passage begins with a question many of us have asked at some point during our lives. Peter, our spokesman, asked Jesus, “How often must we forgive?” We would be inclined to say, “I can’t forgive unless…” but for Jesus there is no “unless.” We say, “I can forgive up to…” but for Jesus there is no “up to….” Jesus answered Peter definitively. He wants us to forgive others exponentially, forever, always. “If we really want to love we must learn how to forgive” (St. Teresa of Calcutta).
- Moved with Compassion: Let us seek in our prayer to understand the heart of God so that we may learn from him how to forgive from our heart. In the parable, the master was moved to compassion and erased his servant’s loan when he knelt and begged before him. When someone is on his knees, recognizing his need, God sees a child, a son or daughter, whom he created and loves. His heart, so full of pure, unconditional love, reaches out in restoration. This is an image of what happens in the sacrament of Reconciliation. Not only does our loving God forgive us, but he forgets our past sins. “Every faithful penitent, after receiving absolution from the priest, has the certainty through faith that their sins no longer exist, they have been canceled by divine mercy,” said Pope Francis (March 4, 2016). Knowing full well of our weaknesses and sinfulness, we can appreciate how gracious God has been to us! He is even more willing to forgive us than we are to forgive ourselves sometimes.
- Unless Each of You Forgives: Jesus warns us through this parable that our failure to forgive others can result in our own damnation. He similarly warned us when he taught us to pray the Our Father, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We can most readily forgive others from our heart when our heart has deeply meditated on and grasps the depth of forgiveness Jesus repeatedly extends to us. If we’re still hurting from insult or injury, we can beg Our Lord to transform our hearts, knowing well that “to err is human, to forgive is divine.” God will never neglect to send us the graces we need to forgive others when we beg with humility and purity of intention for this grace.
Conversing with Christ: Lord, I often feel that I am too weak to live the demands of the Gospel. I forget that I have been forgiven so much, as the man in the parable forgot. Let me always remember all you have done for me, so that I may, like you, forgive unceasingly. Let me live without limits to my mercy.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will pray for someone that I find it hard to forgive.
For Further Reflection: I Am Struggling with Forgiveness from SpiritualDirection.com.
Fr. Adam Zettel, LC, was ordained in 2017 and worked for three years as a high school chaplain in Dallas, Texas. Now he resides in Oakville, Ontario, serving youth and young adults.