Grace to you!
Our reflection today 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, a neighbor, etc., hurt us through what they said or did against us. Perhaps, we try to make sense why this or that person did what they did against us, but the more we try, the more hurt we feel. It’s senseless. 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.
Matthew 18:21-35 is a story of how a similar case could be handled the Christ-way. Peter raised the issue before the Lord. I love his sincerity. He asked Jesus the question: “How often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him; as many as seven times?”
The Lord said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven” (Mt 18: 21-22).
Reflect more deeply on this exchange between Jesus 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, who Peter and the other apostles were, the limit was three times. Peter was actually being very generous in proposing seven times. Was he thinking Jesus would commend his generous and kind proposal? Not with Jesus.
For the Lord Jesus Christ, there are no limits to forgiveness, just as there are no limits to God’s forgiveness of our sins. This 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, which symbolically mean boundless, ad infinitum, limitless, just as the mercy of God, despite His justice, is limitless.
One of the reasons forgiveness should be limitless is that it isn’t a physical quality; it is a holy spiritual disposition; and because it’s spiritual, it can’t and shouldn’t have limits. Limits are to things which are physical and material. God is spirit; hence God is forgiveness, mercy and compassion.
If we must be like God, we must be spiritual as well. To be forgiving is, therefore, to be truly spiritual and holy in dealing with hurts done against us.
I understand this is difficult. 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.
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 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 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, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.