Thursday, August 16, 2012

Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself

"Always tend to think well of other people. Give them credit, at least, for their good intentions. Never throw back into their faces wrong already forgiven. Do good to all, harm to no one." – St. John Bosco

Gospel text (Mt 18,21—19,1): Peter asked Jesus, «Lord, how many times must I forgive the offenses of my brother or sister? Seven times?». Jesus answered, «No, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. This story throws light on the kingdom of heaven. A king decided to settle the accounts of his servants. Among the first was one who owed him ten thousand gold coins. As the man could not repay the debt, the king commanded that he be sold as a slave with his wife, children and all his goods in payment. The official threw himself at the feet of the king and said, ‘Give me time, and I will pay you back everything’. The king took pity on him and not only set him free but even canceled his debt.

»This official then left the king's presence and he met one of his companions who owed him a hundred pieces of silver. He grabbed him by the neck and almost strangled him, shouting, ‘Pay me what you owe!’. His companion threw himself at his feet and asked him, ‘Give me time, and I will pay everything’. The other did not agree, but sent him to prison until he had paid all his debt. His companions saw what happened. They were indignant and so they went and reported everything to their lord. Then the lord summoned his official and said, ‘Wicked servant, I forgave you all that you owed when you begged me to do so. Weren't you bound to have pity on your companion as I had pity on you?’. The lord was now angry, so he handed his servant over to be punished, until he had paid his whole debt». Jesus added, «So will my heavenly Father do with you unless each of you sincerely forgive your brother or sister».

When Jesus had finished this teaching, He left Galilee and arrived at the border of Judea, on the other side of the Jordan River.

Payback is a popular thing.  If someone wrongs me, I sometimes get the feeling that I need to wrong them back or take it out on someone else.  However, other times, I do like giving payback.  If someone buys me a drink or takes me to dinner I feel the duty and necessity to pay them back what they have given me.  If they refuse the offer to pay me back, I pay it forward and buy someone else the next round or take another friend to dinner.

"We, for our part, love because He first loved us" (1 Jn 4:19), and we forgive because the Lord first forgave us.

Our being forgiven by God is the source of our forgiving others. The Lord says to each of us: "I had pity on you" (see Mt 18:33). When the older brother of the prodigal son focused on how much better he had been than his younger brother, the older brother refused to forgive and thereby showed that he too was a prodigal son (Lk 15:29ff). When we focus on the injustices done to us, we will not accept the grace to forgive. However, when we "look on Him Whom [we] have pierced" (Jn 19:37) and tremble in thanksgiving at the awesome forgiveness the Crucified has given us, the forgiveness that has come to us will go through us even to our worst enemies.

Alexander Pope said "To err is human; to forgive is divine." Therefore, God's forgiveness for us is the only source of forgiveness. This source of forgiveness is inexhaustible. From Jesus, we can forgive seventy times seven times — indefinitely times indefinitely (Mt 18:22).

The Gospel challenge for the day:  Say “I’m sorry” and Pay it Forward.

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