Forgiving Without Limit | Friar Reflections | Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Parishioners,

Saints of God, the Lord be with you!

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of being a Catholic Christian is the call to be a forgiving person. This his highlighted in all the readings this weekend and even the Psalm (103) which states, “the Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger and rich in compassion.” Today’s first reading from the Book of Sirach (27:30-28:7) states, “Forgive your neighbor’s injustice, then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.” This reminds me of the Lord’s prayer which states, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” The phrase “as we” contains within it both a sense of time and a sense of manner.

Today’s Gospel according to Matthew (18:21-35) raises the question of how many times must we forgive. As much as seven times, Peter responds suggesting this is a generous amount by any standard. Perhaps. But Jesus answers, “Not seven times, but seventy-seven times!” This is God’s standard, forgive without counting and without limit. Even the second reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans (14:7-9), while not mentioning forgiveness, reminds that that we are called not to live for oneself, but for the Lord. A way to show that we are living for the Lord is to be a person of forgiveness. Even as he was dying on the cross, Jesus not only forgave those who crucified him, but even more astonishing made excuses for them: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34).

The dilemma is that most of us think that forgiveness is a feeling. It’s not. Forgiveness is a choice we make to treat with kindness and respect the person who wronged us. Forgiveness has nothing to do with forgetting how we were hurt or who has hurt us. Forgiveness is about remembering who hurt us, or how we have been hurt, but choosing to live our lives imitating our Lord who is kind, merciful, and rich in compassion. Forgiveness is choosing to live in the freedom of the present and the future Christ calls us to, and to not be shackled to past injustices done to us.

All of us have been hurt, and all of us have hurt others. We are a people, a community of disciples, both called to forgive and be forgiven. Asking for forgiveness is a hard pill for some of us to swallow, or, given the circumstances, impossible to ask from others. If this is the case, and we cannot “make amends,” then the least we can do is to ask God to bless those we have hurt. Let us remember, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has God put our transgressions from us.” Let’s put the transgressions against us as least as far.

Peace and All Good,
Fr. Steve