Gospel: Matthew 18:21-35
Then Peter asked him, “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 accounts with his servants. Among the first of them was one who owed him ten thousand pieces of gold. As the man could not repay the debt, the king commanded that he be sold as a slave with his wife, his children and all his goods, as repayment.
The servant 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 cancelled his debt.
When this servant left the king’s presence, he met one of his fellow servants, who owed him a hundred pieces of silver. He grabbed him by the throat and almost choked him, shouting, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ His fellow servant threw himself at his feet and begged him, ‘Give me time, and I will pay everything.’ But the other did not agree, and sent him to prison until he had paid all his debt.
Now the servants of the king saw what had happened. They were extremely upset, and so they went and reported everything to their lord. Then the lord summoned his servant and said, ‘Wicked servant, I forgave you all that you owed me when you begged me to do so. Weren’t you bound to have pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ The lord was now angry. He handed the wicked servant over to be punished, until he had paid the whole debt.”
Jesus added, “So will my heavenly Father do with you, unless you sincerely forgive your brothers and sisters.”
“Lord, how many times must I forgive the offenses of my brother or sister?”
There is a kind of cheap forgiveness that falls in the category of “please and thank you”—an exchange of courtesies: “I’m sorry”; “I forgive you.” It is easy to forgive someone who is late for dinner, or who inadvertently steps on your toes. But Jesus describes a kind of forgiveness without limit—seventy times the maximum that Peter could envision. And the real test of this forgiveness is that it applies to real injury. Think of what happened following the massacre of nine African Americans, who were shot while they were praying in a church in South Carolina. Soon after the arrest of the shooter—a young white racist—he was confronted by family members of the victims who expressed their forgiveness. They did not do this because the killer was “worthy” of their forgiveness, but to honor the faith of their loved ones, and to express their own faith in Christ, who uttered from the Cross: “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” As Jesus would say, “This story throws light on the Kingdom of Heaven.”
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