Aug. 11, 2016

What if I don't forgive?

"If my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him?" (Matt. 18:21).

I'm wondering what Peter might be feeling when he put this question to Christ. Perhaps, like any of us he was struggling with betrayal or abuse by his brother. Peter knew he would be told not once by Jesus, or not twice. Hence he took the guess which ordinarily would have meant enough for any human being, "As many as seven times?" It is easy to forgive once or at most twice by us. Remember the saying, "Once beaten, twice shy". But why should someone offend me seven times, by the way, and expect me to keep forgiving him? That's what it means to forgive enough. However, Jesus deals with forgiving not only enough but sufficiently. Since each of us offends, each person can also be offended. Each has also to forgive.

Christ steps in, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times". That's incredible. What does he mean? Exegetes tell us that this figure signifies that forgiveness should take place as many times as possible. Christ uses the analogy of the "Unforgiving servant" to draw home his point on forgiveness. That unforgiving servant received great pardon from his master for the debt he owed but failed to forgive his fellow servant who owed him little. For his cruelty, he was punished severely by the master. Then Christ concludes, "So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart" (Matt.18:35).

That answers the question which forms the theme for this reflection, "What if I don't forgive?" The great Prayer, "Our Father", helps us to appreciate the enormity of God's forgiveness of our sins. We pray, "And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us", not, "And forgive us some of our trespasses as we forgive some of the sins of those who trespass against us". That means our forgiveness from God has a tag namely, "...as we forgive...".

How many times do we forgive- seven times like Peter? What do we not forgive? For sure, forgiveness could be a tough thing to do. Parents offend their children. Wife offends husband, and husband, wife. Children offend parents. Father/mother inlaw offends son/daughter inlaw and vice versa. Friend offends friend. Colleagues at work, school, business, offend colleagues. Abuses, betrayals, gossips, lies, manipulations, envies, abandonment, etc. Many persons have been victims of these offenses, and sometimes not received enough signs of remorse from their detractors. Then would this duty to forgive become a great struggle.

Remember today, we forgive not only for the sake of the offender, but for our sake; for God's forgiveness and mercy. Many families have been torn apart today because members can't forgive one another. In the name of Christ, it is important to let God heal your wounds. The more you come to him, the more you feel his mercy and the need to extend it to your brother or sister. It's not once, not twice, not thrice, not even ten times. He tells you, "Seventy-seven times". Stop counting and hand it over to God. He'll take care of your wounds.