I am innocent and I die innocent. I forgive with all my heart those responsible for my death, and I ask God that the shedding of my blood serves toward the peace of our divided Mexico. --Saint Cristobal just before his executioners fired
Gospel text (Mt 18,21-35):
Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
"Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive?
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 the fellow servant 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."
A few months ago, I saw a bumper sticker that said something along the lines of, “It is God’s job to forgive Osama Bin Laden. It is our job to set up the meeting.” Funny, that isn’t exactly the message I took home from today’s readings.
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, and four months after the killing of Osama Bin Laden. How has our country progressed since his death? Is there more peace in the world because of the steps taken in the last few months? What about the last ten years? I recently heard on the news that Americans abroad are advised to be cautious because violent attacks against them have escalated since Bin Laden was killed. When does it end? Killing leads to more killing. Vengeance to more vengeance. We become lost in a spiral of hate and violence. The only end that can be reached is pain. With that attitude, death has the final word.
But the promise we are given from Jesus is one of life. And this begins with forgiveness, not just God’s forgiveness, but our forgiveness of others here today. Only if we get over ourselves and our vengeful nature can we actually live. Jesus tells us that death is what we bring upon ourselves “unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”
Maybe our inability to forgive stems from not comprehending how much we are loved. God meets us where we are and loves us without having to change a thing. This is countercultural to us. We can love once someone fits our desires of who we think they should be. If they don’t fit our mold, we experience disappointment. But that’s not how God loves. God loves us where we are. If God can love and forgive all of us in whatever state we are in, we can do our best to forgive and love all those around us.
Forgive. Not once or twice, but forever. With forgiveness we can have peace. With forgiveness we can have life.