Complete Forgiveness

Scripture (MT 18:21-35)

Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
"Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive him?
As many as seven times?"
Jesus answered, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
That is why the Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began the accounting,
a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
Since he had no way of paying it back,
his master ordered him to be sold,
along with his wife, his children, and all his property,
in payment of the debt.
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said,
'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.'
Moved with compassion the master of that servant
let him go and forgave him the loan.
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants
who owed him a much smaller amount.
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding,
'Pay back what you owe.'
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,
'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.'
But he refused.
Instead, he had him put in prison
until he paid back the debt.
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened,
they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master
and reported the whole affair.
His master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant!
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?'
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart."

Reflection

Recently I took on a teaching position at Dominican High School.  The students have been great but since they are teenagers there are moments where they act out.  One student has had more issues than others.  This particular person seems unable to get it together.  Some of the offenses have involved copying work from another student, talking back to his teacher and using vulgarity in class.  After the last offense these words came out of my mouth: “I am losing my patience with you.  You need to pull it together.”  Accountability in a high school setting is an important part of discipline and quite frankly this person had earned that reprimand and more but having lost patience with this student stands in contrast to the limitless patience and compassion God has for us.

When Peter asks Jesus, how many times must he forgive he believes he is being quite generous in suggesting seven times.  In the bible, the number seven represents completeness or perfection.  Peter is asking must I forgive those who hurt me perfectly.  He probably was expecting a pat on the back for being so magnanimous.  Yet as Jesus often does, he pushes Peter further.  You are not just to offer forgiveness perfectly, but it is perfection times perfection.  The forgiveness we are to offer is complete, full or total.  There is not to be an ounce of anger, hurt or resentment left over.  It is a forgiveness that has the potential to transform.

It is likely that we will be each character in the story sometime in our lives.  There will be times where we can be the king and set a person free by forgiving them.  Other times we will be the servant who is set free.  It is possible that we will be the servant who refuses to forgive.  And there may be times we will be the servant who is throttled because of our indiscretion.        

Sadly, the parable ends with both servants in prison because of an inability to offer compassion and mercy.  Even though we have been hurt the power we have to forgive and set someone free is based on the fact that we have been forgiven.  Forgiveness is meant to be contagious.  Today you are called to spread mercy and forgiveness!  I will start with my students.

Questions

  • When have you received an undeserved gift of forgiveness?
  • What offenses are most difficult for you to forgive?
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
— St. Francis of Assisi
 
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These Lenten reflections are written by friends of 12plus1, Inc.  Discovery House a service-based gap year experience for participants ages 18-20 will begin August 2018.  Please share this information with an individuals who may want to participate or support this new ministry.

Action 

FAST from a desire for revenge. 

PRAY for patience with those who annoy you. 

GIVE yourself forgiveness.

 

Author

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Joe Nettesheim is the founder and director of 12plus1.  He has been involved in Church ministry since 1991.  Besides 12plus1 he also teaches part time for Dominican High School and Cardinal Stritch University.  He is married to Maribeth.  Their blended family consists of 5 children, 2 sons-in-law, 6 grandchildren and TS Eliot, the golden doodle puppy.