If you, O Lord, should note what we do wrong, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered. Ps 130:3-4
O God, you call your Church to witness that in Christ we are reconciled to you:
help us so to proclaim the good news of your love that all who hear it may turn to you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
- Exodus 14:19-31
- Psalm 114
- Romans 14:1-14
- Matthew 18:21-35
- Next week:
- Exodus 16:2-15
- Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45
- Philippians 1
- Matthew 20:1-16
A Thought to Ponder
Pentecost 16 – Matthew 18:21-35
The parable of the unforgiving debtor: “’Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ “So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives one another from your heart.”
The cutting edge of Jesus’ teaching on love is that nothing is unforgivable, nor should there be limits to forgiveness. It is ironic that Peter should ask the question about forgiveness that introduces the parable of the merciless steward, since Peter himself will be so generously forgiven by Jesus for his denial of Jesus on Good Friday. It was common rabbinical teaching that one must forgive another three times; the fourth time, the offender was not to be forgiven. Perhaps Peter was anticipating Jesus’ response to his question by suggesting seven rather than the conventional three times; but Jesus responds there should be no limit to the number of times we must be ready to forgive those who wrong us (“seventy times seven times”), just as there is no limit to the Father’s forgiveness of us.
As the king in the parable withdraws his forgiveness of his servant because of the servant’s failure to forgive another, so will God withdraw his forgiveness of the unforgiving and merciless among us. God’s forgiveness is not entirely unconditional: if we do not share it, we will lose it. What is going on within our own heart? Is it rigid or open? Is it full of resentment or compassion?
To forgive as God forgives means to intentionally act to purge the wrong that exists between us and those who harm us, to take the first, second and last steps toward bridging divisions, to work to mend broken relationships and to welcome and accept the forgiven back into our lives. It also means recognising those times when this is not possible because the other party is not willing to budge.
Forgiveness requires empathy, the ability to place ourselves in the place of the other to see the situation from their perspective. To realise the reconciling peace of Jesus begins with overcoming our own anger and discontent at the injustice waged against us and focusing our attention, instead, on the person who has wronged us. Is there something I’ve missed? Is there something I could do differently? Do I have the humility to face the hurt I have inflicted on others as a result of my insensitivity and self-centredness?
Before our merciful Father in heaven, every one of us is an insolvent debtor – but the great mystery of our faith is God continues to love us, continues to call us back to him, continues to seek not retribution but reconciliation with us. All God asks of us is that we forgive one another as he forgives us, to help one another back up when we stumble just as God lifts us back up.
The Risen Christ calls us to seek reconciliation that transforms and re-creates: forgiveness that is joyfully offered and humbly but confidently sought; forgiveness that transforms the estranged and separated into family and community; forgiveness that overcomes our own anger at the injustice waged against us and focuses on healing the relationship with the person who wronged us and broke that relationship. Christ-like reconciliation also means possessing the humility to face the hurt we have inflicted on others as a result of our insensitivity and self-centeredness.
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