Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.“
For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt.
But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place.
Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved. http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
Today’s Gospel examines the relationship between debt and forgiveness. Ironically, to harm another is to be in their debt, to be in need of their forgiveness. This gives the wronged person great power: he or she can choose to withhold forgiveness or to grant it.
Often, we are like Peter asking, “Do I really have to forgive this person?” We want to lord over the others, reminding them of how they have hurt us. We are resistant to giving up that power and allowing the relationship to change. To forgive from the heart means to allow for a new freedom in the relationship, a freedom to grow, no longer confined by past hurts.
Forgiving is scary. It means risking relationship yet again, allowing another opportunity for harm, yet without this risk, there would be no opportunity to love again. Christ is the ultimate model of what it is to let go of power and forgive.
What relationships in my life are constricted by past hurts? What would it look like to risk letting go of the power of those hurts?
—Cyril Pinchak, S.J. is a first year theology student at Regis College in Toronto. He taught previously at University of Detroit High School & Academy in Detroit, MI.
Lord Christ, help me to see what it is that joins us together, not what separates us. I see only others’ faults and weaknesses, interpreting their actions as flowing from malice or hatred rather than fear. Even when confronted with evil, Lord, you forgave and sacrificed yourself rather than sought revenge. Teach me to do the same by the power of your Spirit. Amen.
— William Breault, S.J., in Hearts on Fire, ed. by Michael Harter, S.J. © Loyola Press, 2004.
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