“Everyone in silence think of someone with whom things aren’t going well: someone we are angry at, someone we don’t wish well. Think of this person, and in silence in this moment let’s pray for this person and become merciful towards this person.” – Pope Francis
Gospel Text: (MT 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.
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 his brother from his heart.”
When Jesus finished these words, he left Galilee
and went to the district of Judea across the Jordan.
Today’s gospel reminds me of the words we say often in prayer: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. We rely on the mercy of God to forgive us as we often stumble in the world. But do we forgive our neighbor?
We hold grudges and slights in our hearts. We think: I’ll show him / her. He won’t get away with this. We find it difficult to let go of those debts we feel are owed to us. It’s not easy sometimes. It requires opening up our hearts when it seems better to keep our hearts closed and protected. Opening our hearts to forgiveness, to forgive those who trespass against us, opens our hearts to God.
In the gospel, Jesus is asked how often we must forgive those who sin against us. The questioner suggests seven times. Jesus’ answer is “not seven but seventy-seven times.” That forgiveness over and over is something we need to practice, as athletes practice for a game. We should be able to feel our hearts grow more open as we forgive those who trespass against us, not once, but again and again and again.