Tuesday, March 21

Thoughts on today's gospel reading

Today's Gospel - Mt 18:21-35

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."

This is a pretty heavy reading, probably one of the most intense in the New Testament. And, as usual, it speaks right to me.

I've been struggling with mercy and forgiveness for a couple of specific people in my work and personal life. How can I expect God to forgive me for my sins if I do not forgive my fellow man for things which they have done to me? It's hard. Very hard. But I must forgive, no matter what the consequence or response is. And I need to forget, for hanging on to the bitterness is still affecting my daily life, and that's not right.

I think the hardest part is that all of the strife comes from outside of my safe circle, which includes my best friend, my husband and my church. I live in this happy little Cloud Nine existance, going from work to church to home to bed. I do my 8-hours worth of work, no one bothers me, people are happy with my output. When I get off of work, I read, I pray, I listen to EWTN, I go to Mass and spend time with the Blessed Sacrament. If I'm lucky, I'll go to Half Price Books and pick up a couple of good Catholic books. My life is happy, serene, simple. I've finally found the satisfaction in life I've been looking for, and I revel in every minute of it.

But then sometimes, out of nowhere it seems, a great big gob of gunk comes up and gets fwapped right on top of my little life. Things don't go my way at work. A snide remark, seemingly out of nowhere, is made. I hear a horrible thing about another person in relation to me that really rubs me the wrong way. It adds a great big glob of filth to my happy, Cloud 9 existance, and I don't like it at all. But it must be dealt with.

Apologies are hard, but I think forgiveness is even harder sometimes. When damage cannot be repaired by forgiveness, is it worth it? It is worth fixing flat tire on an old bike that you never intend to ride again?

I'll keep praying about it and hopefully the issues will all be resolved in the end.


At 7:01 PM, Anonymous John said...

When damage cannot be repaired by forgiveness, is it worth it? It is worth fixing flat tire on an old bike that you never intend to ride again?
An interesting analogy. If the bike is someone who wronged you, then it is really up to the bike to fix the flat, if the bike is inclined to do so. Your part in this is to forgive the bike for having the flat. Yes, even if you are not going to ride it again. Forgiveness isn't about the damage done or about the utility in making a repair. Forgiveness is your heart's response to the person responsible for the damage. That forgiveness benefits you, the aggriever, and is pleasing to God. And indeed forgiveness is difficult. It feels wrong to do anything but stew in the anger and hold a grudge. But in return for forgiving, God grants many graces, particularly the virtue of humility.

You don't have to express forgiveness to the aggriever, unless it would be beneficial to them to know you have forgiven them. People who don't know or don't care that they are hurting you would be offended to know that you have forgiven them. But those harboring guilt for their actions should be told so they can be healed themselves.

See CCC 2838-2845

Personally, I find if there is someone I can't forgive, I pray for them. At first, it's forced, but after a few hours or days, it then comes from the heart. Then I can say that they are truly forgiven. But even when I'm wrapped up in my anger and self-righteousness, I willfully decide to forgive. I do believe that once someone has committed to that decision, God will help them to true, heartfelt forgiveness.


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