30 Oct 2021
Peter said unto Jesus, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow-servants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellow-servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow- servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow-servant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
How often we hear, “I’m sorry”; how rare to hear, “I forgive you.” More often we hear, “that’s okay” or “no problem.” But that isn’t really forgiving. We are left to wonder, does he or she really forgive me? Or will this problem sour our relationship? Jesus gave us a parable about forgiveness in the Gospel. To bring this into somewhat modern terms, the servant owed his king thousands of dollars. He had no way of paying back that kind of money, and the king was ready to sell him and his family into slavery to get his money! The servant begged for more time. The king went beyond that: the king totally forgave him the debt. Then, this unappreciative man went out and grabbed a fellow who owed him just a few dollars. He would not forgive that person his debt but had him thrown into prison! When the servant is severely punished by the king, Jesus tells his disciples that this is the way God will resolve our accounts if we are so obstinate and unforgiving of others.
In Jesus’ day it was common to say that forgiving someone three times was enough. St. Peter in the Gospel asks Jesus if seven times is better. But Jesus’ reply means that our forgiving others should be countless because we are counting on God’s mercy to be greater still—beyond all imagining.
Of course, we can think of many things that seem to be beyond our forgiveness. What are we to think of those who hurt others and don’t regret it? And what about society’s laws? Should the judge and policeman just look the other way when people are assaulted or murder and robbery fill our streets? Forgive and forget? It seems that justice and mercy must somehow work together in our society as well as in our personal behavior. We need to so follow the Lord’s admonition that we can find ways in our lives to truly and earnestly forgive others and bring peace to our world. We cannot force this peace on others who are not ready to accept the grace that comes from God, but our actions can demonstrate to them that there is a great blessing in following in the Lord’s footsteps in this. We can plant a seed in others and help them grow spiritually.
Brothers and Sisters, what other path is possible? Have anger and resentment brought a better world to us? If we look at the communications coming to us from television, radio, and the computer, are we seeing “light at the end of the tunnel” or is it poison that invokes negative feelings and anger? There is truly a great deal of mental poisoning all around us today, but we must struggle to promote peace, forgiveness, and love in our world. These blessings all come from God. He must always be our first priority for without acknowledging that He is our first love and devotion, we can accomplish nothing to help our neighbors and ourselves.
If we look at our heavenly “bank account”, we can readily see the incredible debt we owe to God especially in His sacrifice of His only Son on the Cross for us. Though many spiritual failures have put us deeply in the red, we still say in the prayer before Communion, “Thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy.” We count on his great mercy. We must always remember to forgive so that God will forgive us.
Bishop Edwin Tompkins