Jesus answers St. Peter that he must forgive his brother or sister seven times seventy times. He tells the parable. Once more we are reminded of the importance of forgiving others – a reminder that can’t come too often.
Jesus ends the parable by saying, “And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother and sister from your hearts.”
Jesus calls for total forgiveness from our hearts. That’s because if your heart is so full of hate, you will block the love of God’s forgiveness from reaching you.
Is there some person whom you have not and cannot forgive? This is the opportunity to pray for God’s grace that you will be able to forgive that person. Instead of an obstacle to loving God, it can become a vehicle to loving God. Sometimes we are even called to forgive a person over and over. And that is definitely not easy.
When Jesus said, “seven times seventy-seven he didn’t mean you keep score and when you get to 490 times you quit. Those numbers are symbolic numbers for infinity — you never stop forgiving people who have hurt you, even if they don’t ask for your forgiveness – even if they never express sorrow for hurting you.
In the “Our Father” we pray,”Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We specifically ask God to forgive us in the same measure we have forgiven others.
We go to the holy mystery of penance and confess our sins, fully expecting the priest to give us absolution — and rightly so! But what if God forgave us as we forgive those who trespass against us? Would we have a problem?
Look again at today’s Gospel parable. There was a vast difference in the amount owed by each man. The servant owed his master one six-hundred-thousandth of what the master owed the king.
Now you can see the enormous generosity of the king to his servant in simply writing off the whole debt! You can see the malice of the servant in consigning his fellow servant to debtors prison.
No wonder the king was angry when he heard about what had happened. No wonder he punished the servant the way he did.
Jesus calls for a lot in today’s Gospel. He knows how it feels to be hurt by another person.
Didn’t Judas betray him?
Didn’t the crowds turn on him in front of Pilate?
Didn’t Peter deny him three times?
Didn’t the leaders of his own people reject him and send him to crucifixion?
Didn’t they stand at the foot of the cross and taunt him?
And didn’t he say, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus knew the law of talion: an eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth. He knew that the people of his time considered revenge as normal and expected. That is why there were laws to limit the extent one could take revenge.
Even so, he gave a new law — one in which there would be no more revenge;
no more “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth.”
This new law would be one of mercy and love.
And this is the other aspect of today’s Gospel reading – mercy and compassion
When one is compassionate, one is sharing another person’s suffering.
The old saying, “Don’t criticize another until you have walked a mile in his moccasins.” This is being compassionate. It’s not unusual that when you try to put yourself in the other person’s place, you wind up understanding why that person acted the way he did. This then leads to forgiveness. Thus reflecting God’s mercy and love
By our own lack of love for others, our own refusal to forgive, we keep the hatred and evil in the world around us alive and active. We’ve just experienced so much violence in our country. We heard the news of the French priest murdered while he was celebrating the Mass. We heard of the Cleveland priest who was accosted by a gunman in the confessional.
Isn’t There more than enough evil, death and suffering already inflicted on people? That can only be eliminated from the world by love and forgiveness of those who have hurt us. If we harbor grudges and nurse injuries in our hearts; if we say we can never forgive, we just add to that human misery.
However, we can have compassion and forgive others because we are Christians living in the light of God’s forgiveness and grace. In these final months of the “Year of Mercy”, are you up to the challenge?