Grace to you!
Today’s reflection centers on one of the most talked about, but often challenging, demands of Christian spirituality—forgiveness.
C. S. Lewis once said, “Forgiveness is a wonderful idea until we’ve got someone to forgive.” Nonetheless, in forgiveness lies the heroic heart of a true believer.
Let's face it: From time to time, a family member, a friend, a coworker, or a neighbor hurts us. It may come through what they said or did against us. Perhaps, we try to make sense of why this or that person did what they did against us. The more we try, the more hurt we feel. Sometimes the wounds are so terrible; we wouldn't want to forgive. We may be tempted to get even, especially in cases where we believe the culprit is intentionally causing us harm.
The Gospel of Matthew 18:21-35 documents the Lord's provision on how one could handle a similar case. It is the Christ-way. Peter asked the Lord: "How often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him; as many as seven times?" I love his sincerity.
The Lord replied, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven" (Mt 18: 21-22).
Reflect more deeply on this exchange between the Lord and Peter. Could it be Peter was concerned about dealing with a brother who may have wronged him? Perhaps someone who belonged to the circle of the apostles or disciples? Aren't there some limits to forgiving a person always on our nerves?
For a typical Jew at the time, which Peter and the other apostles were, the limit was three times. Peter was very generous in proposing seven times. Did he think the Lord would commend his generous and kind proposal?
For the Lord Jesus Christ, there are no limits to forgiveness, just as there are no limits to God's forgiveness of our sins. It is a model the Lord wants believers to adopt. A tough model indeed!
By saying seventy times seven, the Lord was appealing to the significance of the numbers seven and seventy in Jewish culture. It symbolically means endless, ad infinitum, or limitless. Just as the mercy of God, despite his justice, endures forever.
One of the reasons forgiveness should be limitless is that it isn't a physical quality. It is a holy spiritual disposition. As a spiritual reality, it can't and shouldn't have limits. Limits are to things that are physical and material. God is Spirit. Hence God's forgiveness, mercy, and compassion are infinite.
If we must be like God, we must be spiritual in this quality that marks us his as well. To be forgiving is, therefore, to be truly spiritual and holy in dealing with hurts done against us.
I understand this isn't easy. You may have your stories regarding repeated acts of injustice against you. Believe you me; I've had mine too. Nonetheless, by forgiving and letting go, we are fighting the spirit of hate or meanness in the heart of our offender with the spirit of forgiveness. We are healing the world.
Forgiveness isn't possible by our powers alone. It's possible by the grace of God who gifts us with the spirit of forgiveness, enabling us to choose that holy path.
Lent is an appropriate time to ask for more graces of forgiveness. It’s the right time to choose to forgive.
Would you please pray with me: "Lord, make me an instrument of your mercy and forgiveness.” Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Tuesday, Lent Week 3: Daniel 3:25; 34-43: Mt. 18:21-35]
Father Maurice Emelu, Ph.D., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth and inspiration. They are designed for a general audience. They may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons.