To read the texts click on the texts: Sir 27:30-28:7; Rom 14:7-9; Mt18:21-35
readings of today which are from centuries ago are still as relevant today as
they were then. Most doctors today are agreed that harbouring resentment,
unforgiveness and similar negative feelings are largely responsible for the
ailments we suffer today.
Sirach offers practical wisdom in the first reading of today when he exhorts
his listeners to forgive and not hold anger in their hearts. The reason for
this is that if one holds the negative, there is no room for the forgiving love
of God to enter into one’s heart. When one harbours wrath and anger, one closes
heart to receive the forgiveness and acceptance that God keeps giving.
similar point is made in the conclusion of Matthew’s Community Discourse which
is the Gospel text for today. It begins with a question from Peter about the
number of times one is expected to forgive. The sevenfold forgiveness that
Peter suggests is by no means trivial. Seven is the traditional number of
perfection. That Peter suggests forgiving seven times does not mean, therefore,
that he wants to grant his brother or sister only a limited forgiveness.
Instead, the sense of Peter’s question is: “Is perfect forgiveness expected of
me?” Jesus could simply have answered yes, but his answer calls for even more
perfection. The most perfect, boundlessly infinite, countlessly repeated
forgiveness is demanded of Peter. The answer that Matthew attributes to Jesus
cannot be surpassed. In the church Jesus’ rule of radical forgiveness is in
effect. The point therefore is not so much about numbers but about forgiveness
from the heart. If one has to count the number of times one is forgiving, it
means that one is not really forgiving at all.
Matthew, it is clear that God’s forgiveness can be lost through human
unkindness so that one’s earlier guilt returns. The story that follows in
18:23-35 about the king who forgave his servant a debt of ten thousand talents
(a talent was more than fifteen years wages of a labourer) and that same
servant who would not forgive another servant who owed him a mere hundred
denarii (a denarius was the usual day’s wage for a labourer) insists that if
one has not genuinely received God’s forgiveness, one cannot forgive others.
The servant, who was forgiven his huge debt, had not interiorised the
forgiveness he received. He did not let the grace of forgiveness seep into his
heart and consequently was not able to appreciate it. This lack of appreciation
of grace, lead to his own unforgiving action toward a fellow servant. The response
of the king is immediate. He asks for no explanation, but simply labels the
forgiven one as evil and treats him as he treated his fellow slave. The parable
ends with the hearers being challenged to reflect on how God will deal with
each one and of the consequences of unforgiveness.
model of forgiveness whom Paul asks us to look to is Jesus. It is he who first
showed us the true meaning of forgiveness and also taught us how to forgive in
his ministry and especially when on the cross. It is this Jesus for whom we
live and die and who remains, the only inspiration that we will ever need.
expect to be forgiven by others when we do them harm and after we have said
sorry. Sometimes, if they do not forgive us, we get upset with them. We need to
apply the same yardstick to ourselves when others ask for forgiveness from us.
The readings of today are explicit that if we have to truly receive the
unconditional forgiveness of God then we have first to open our hearts wide to
receive this forgiveness. This openness will result in our being able to
forgive others who we think have hurt us.
am fond of saying, “Forgive, it is good for your health”.