REFLECTION FOR TODAY
August 12, 2021
By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA
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.” Matt. 18:21-22
Seven times or seventy-seven times? Jesus speaks about the importance of forgiveness in our gospel reference of today. We all know that forgiveness is a beautiful thing, and it is good for us. Without forgiveness, life would be an ugly cycle of resentment and retaliation.
When Peter asked Jesus how often he must forgive his brother if he wrongs him, Peter was expecting that seven times would be more than enough. But Jesus told him that it is not just seven, but seventy-seven times! Not just Peter is surprised, but we would be surprised too.
How can we keep forgiving someone who is unrepentant? But to forgive is to set a prisoner free, and to discover that prisoner is you. Forgiveness indeed has the power to free us from that ugly cycle of resentment and retaliation. Forgiveness does not change the past, but it will enlarge the future for us. We all want a future that is good, beautiful, and loving, not just for ourselves but for others as well. But what is needed for that future is forgiveness. Those who are strong would want to forgive and walk towards that beautiful future.
According to John Chrysostom, “seventy-seven times” was a way of saying “always.” In other words, Jesus was not giving a specific number to the times we must forgive, He was saying that forgiveness must be offered forever and always, without limit. This is the depth of forgiveness offered to us. Just as there is no limit to the mercy of God, there must be no limit to the mercy we offer others.
As Christian what is your personal practice when it comes to seeking the forgiveness of God in your life? And what is your practice regarding offering forgiveness to another? One of the hardest persons to forgive is the one who has no sorrow for their sin. When this happens, it is easy to justify our condemnation of them.
One thing that might be helpful to reflect upon if you are currently withholding forgiveness from another and remain angry, bitter, or hurt, is that your lack of forgiveness does more damage to your own soul than to theirs. By refusing to forgive, you do immeasurable damage to your soul and to your relationship with God. Remaining angry and hurt only leads to more anger and hurt. It leads to vengeful thinking and even acting. And that is a sin for which you will be held accountable.
Reflect, today, upon the infinite depth of mercy and forgiveness you are called to offer to each person who has or will hurt you. To forgive is certainly not to excuse. On the contrary, the act of forgiveness acknowledges the sin. But mercy must be offered no matter what. Always, everywhere, unending and without any conditions, it must be offered. If this is difficult to do, do it anyway and do not stop. Doing so will not only help the sinner, it will also open the gates of mercy from God in your life.
Forgiving Lord, Your mercy is infinite and unfathomable. You desire to forgive every sin in my life and to restore me completely to a life of perfect union with You. I accept this gift of forgiveness in my life, dear Lord, and I freely choose to offer this same depth of mercy to everyone who ever has or ever will sin against me. I forgive as completely as I can. Please help me to imitate Your unending mercy. Jesus, I trust in You.