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.”
I’m sure we have all felt like Peter at the beginning of this passage. You can imagine that someone has wronged Peter and he wants to know how many times that he has to forgive this person. Each one of us has been hurt by people, often by people who are closest to us. A common question that I receive from people is, “How do I learn how to forgive?” Or “I don’t know if I can forgive him/her for what they did to me”.
I think the first place to start if you want to work on forgiveness is to see how merciful our Lord is to us. One of my favorite Scripture stories is the woman caught in adultery. Everyone wants to stone her, but Jesus chases them away when He says, “Let he who is sinless cast the first stone”. Jesus is showing them and us that we are all sinners, so we shouldn’t be judging anyone else. And then Jesus looks at the woman and asks, “Who condemns you?” The men have all left, so she replies, “No one sir.” Jesus tells her, “Nor do I. Now go and sin no more.”
Jesus showed her mercy and she became one of His closest followers for life. She experienced His life-changing mercy and she was never the same. I imagine that story was always in her mind when someone sinned against her.
Often when we have a hard time forgiving someone, it means that we have not taken the time to reflect on our own sinfulness and our need for God’s mercy. When we truly have a powerful experience of God’s mercy, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, our lives are never the same. And we want to share that mercy with others.
In today’s Gospel, the man who is forgiven a huge debt does not pass along the same mercy to his servant.
Do I want God’s forgiveness without being merciful to others?
Am I judgmental of others while not reflecting on my own sinfulness?
Another helpful hint is to spend time meditating on Jesus on the cross. After being beaten, spat upon, tortured and crucified, Jesus looked upon the soldiers and his persecutors with mercy, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” He wasn’t excusing their behavior as if it didn’t happen, but He was recognizing that they were blinded by sin and didn’t recognize Him as the Son of God.
If you need to forgive someone, go to the cross. Ask the Lord for His grace to forgive others. Many people hurt us without a malicious intent to hurt us. I doubt many people wake up in the morning with vengeance on their minds. And even if they do, we need to pray for them.
Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Mathew 5:43-44)
Have a blessed day!