Peter asked Jesus, «Lord, how many times must I forgive the offenses of my brother or sister? Seven times?». Jesus answered, «No, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. This story throws light on the kingdom of heaven. A king decided to settle the accounts of his servants. Among the first was one who owed him ten thousand gold ingots. As the man could not repay the debt, the king commanded that he be sold as a slave with his wife, children and all his goods in payment. The official threw himself at the feet of the king and said, ‘Give me time, and I will pay you back everything’. The king took pity on him and not only set him free but even canceled his debt.
»This official then left the king's presence and he met one of his companions who owed him a hundred pieces of silver. He grabbed him by the neck and almost strangled him, shouting, ‘Pay me what you owe!’. His companion threw himself at his feet and asked him, ‘Give me time, and I will pay everything’. The other did not agree, but sent him to prison until he had paid all his debt. His companions saw what happened. They were indignant and so they went and reported everything to their lord. Then the lord summoned his official and said, ‘Wicked servant, I forgave you all that you owed when you begged me to do so. Weren't you bound to have pity on your companion as I had pity on you?’. The lord was now angry, so he handed his servant over to be punished, until he had paid his whole debt». Jesus added, «So will my heavenly Father do with you unless each of you sincerely for-give your brother or sister».
When Jesus had finished this teaching, He left Galilee and arrived at the border of Judea, on the other side of the Jordan River.
If the question is asked another way as, how many time should I love my brothers and sisters, then we ourselves could answer this question easily. For me personally, forgiveness is the other side of love. Jesus is addressing his disciples, and the answer applies to all those who love Jesus. If we are in love with Jesus, then what he says has to be part of our life.
The parable affirms that God’s love and mercy are not something that we are going to receive, rather what we have already received. The first reading gives us a part of the salvation history, and how Moses’ legacy is taken forward. The more we become aware of what God has given to us in our history, the better will be our capacity to adjust to the newness of life. Once we are aware, what God has done to us, we will be ready to give back to God with gratitude. Our loving and forgiving is not to receive back, rather give back what we have already received from God. Today’s parable invites us to be aware of the divine mercy and love that we have received from God and return the same to our brothers and sisters.
It is in this giving that our brothers and sisters will discover the divine love and mercy. If we fail to give back what we have already received, then how God’s presence will be felt by our brothers and sisters. We as God’s people be aware of this responsibility and act in our humanity divinely.
Action of the day: Act divinely in your humanity.
«Lord, how many times must I forgive the offenses of my brother or sister?»
Fr. Joan BLADÉ i Piñol
Today, asking «how many times must I forgive the offenses of my brother or sister?» (Mt 18:21), may mean: —These persons I love so much also have their little ways and whims that bother me; day after day, they pester me every five minutes; they do not speak to me... Lord, how long am I supposed to put up with them?
And Jesus answers with the lesson of the patience. Actually, both colleagues coincide when they say: «have patience» (Mt 18:26-29). But, while the intemperance of the wicked one, strangling his companion for a few silver coins, provokes his moral and economic ruin, the king's patience, while saving the debtor, his family and his goods, magnifies the monarch's personality and generates the confidence of his court. The king's reaction in Jesus' words reminds us the Psalm that goes: «But you are willing to forgive, so that you might be honored» (Ps 130:4).
Evidently, we have to oppose to injustice, and energetically, if at all necessary, (otherwise, it would be a sign of apathy or cowardice). But indignation is healthy only when there is no selfishness, nor wrath, nor any nonsense, but our straight desire to fight for the truth. The authentic patience brings us to put up mercifully with contradiction, weakness, inconveniences, unreasonable persons or events. To be patient is tantamount to dominate oneself. Susceptible or violent persons cannot be patient because they neither take their time reflect about anything nor can they dominate themselves.
Patience is a Christian virtue because is a part of the message from the Kingdom of Heaven, and it is forged on the experience we all have defects. If Paul exhorts us to put on a heart of patience with one another (cf. Col 3:12-13), Peter reminds us that the Lord's patience offers us the chance of salvation (cf. 2Pet 3:15).
For, how many times has God's patience forgiven us in the confessionary? Seven times? Seventy seven times, seven? Maybe more!