True forgiveness brings the spirit of reconciliation
Posted: Tue, 08 Sep 2020 11:35
Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB helps us reflect on the Gospel for 24th Sunday of the Year, Matthew 18: 21-35. (Photo: Wesley Tingey on Unsplash)
Just as we begin the new school year, with all the problems that a global Pandemic brings, today's Gospel seems like a maths problem that Miss Wilson used to set us back in the day when I was in St Elizabeth's primary school.
Jesus never tires of talking about forgiveness; the forgiveness that lies at the heart of the Gospel message: the forgiveness seen at Calvary when Jesus, bruised broken and dying, can exclaim, "Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing!" Forgiveness is again central to our Gospel today and it reminds us all of the need to be caring and gentle: we will be hurt by what others say and do, especially if we are more sensitive than others. However, the cross that we are invited to embrace again today is CAN YOU FORGIVE THAT HURT AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN?
It is very interesting to note that it is Peter who brings up the question of the quality and quantity of forgiveness. To forgive seven times is surely enough, is the thinking of the Rock, after all
In the Book of Amos, God only offers forgiveness three times to the enemies of Israel ( Amos 1: 3-13)! By offering forgiveness more than double that of the Old Testament example, Peter perhaps expected extra commendation from the Lord. When Jesus responded that forgiveness should be offered four hundred and ninety times, far beyond that which Peter was proposing, it must have stunned the disciples who were listening. Although they had been with Jesus for some time, they were still thinking in the limited terms of the LAW, rather than in the unlimited terms of GRACE and LOVE. Jesus points him to the real quality of forgiveness: like love it has to be unconditional.
The parable of the unforgiving servant emphasises Jesus' point: God forgives us fully when we say sorry. That has to be the yardstick against which we must judge ourselves. Who are we to stand on our selfishness and hide behind rules and regulations? Who are we to refuse to forgive and show mercy when we daily experience that love of God? It is fitting that Peter asks the question in today's Gospel: "how much must I forgive?" Peter knows first hand that love, mercy and forgiveness of God.
With Portia in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, we can see the real power of forgiveness and showing mercy. By showing mercy and understanding, we are not being WEAK, rather we show our POWER. The beauty of true forgiveness is that it leads to a spirit of reconciliation, so needed in our world today. It is a win/win for all involved; let us pray that this week we can both forgive and be forgiven:
The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
The Merchant of Venice, Act 4 Sc 1