How forgiving are you?
The prophet Sirach was a font of wisdom, reminding the people of Israel of how to live the covenant with which God gifted them. An important part of living that covenant is knowing how to forgive, and Sirach’s wisdom is still eminently applicable today: Forgive your neighbor’s injustice, he tells the Israelites – for, if you refuse mercy to another like yourself, you will not be able to seek pardon on your own behalf. As Psalm 103 affirms, God himself is kind and merciful; God’s forgiveness and compassion surpass any limitations we might place upon them. So too must we be, for as Paul reminds the Romans, if we live, we live for the Lord, and thus we must live the love God has revealed in Christ, the love God has also revealed in us. One way to do this is to forgive.
When, in Matthew’s Gospel, Peter asks Jesus, If my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive?, Jesus’ response is extraordinary: not seven times, but seventy-seven times. The parable of the debtor-servant illustrates both God’s infinite mercy and the fallibility of human nature: the king in the parable is moved with compassion, moved to the depths of his being, when his servant begs him to be patient; that same servant, however, is incapable of being so moved, and has his fellow servant put in prison when he is unable to pay back what he owes. The unforgiving servant has no pity on his fellow man.
Consider this. Are we capable of paying back the debt of our life that is a product of God’s love? Can we ever pay back the debt we have to God’s forgiveness in our lives every day? If we can’t forgive the minuscule debts of our fellow servants on this earth, how can we ever expect to pay our debt to God? Forgiveness is not an option; it is standard equipment, so to speak – for in baptism, as we enter into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, we enter into the forgiveness and compassion of God. It is therefore that same forgiveness and compassion that we must bring to others, always, daily, forgiving our brothers from the heart, moved from the depths of our being with the compassion that comes from God.
This post is based on Fr. Pat’s Scripture class.
Image source: Wordle