Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves.
When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt.
But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt.
When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)
“Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?”
What a strange question for Peter to ask Jesus. We all know we should forgive at all times. Or is it a strange question? As we continue to encounter the foibles of others—our coworkers, people we meet in daily life, and especially our family and friends—we may get weary, discouraged, and disheartened.
We may then begin to feel righteous anger toward those who continually wrong us. “I am usually on time. Why does he always show up late?” “I follow the rules of the road. Why can’t that person drive correctly?” “Why do I always have to call her? Why doesn’t she pick up the phone and call me?” This righteous anger can keep us from forgiving others.
Jesus uses a parable ——a story with a twist—to emphasize that we should forgive others because we are forgiven by God. When a servant asks the king for extra time to pay his debt, the king completely forgives the loan. What a great twist in this story: Instead of getting more time to pay his debt, the servant owes the king nothing! God (represented by the king in the story) is willing to forgive us all of our sins.
Since God forgives our sins, we are to forgive others who sin against us. We should not let anything (even righteous anger) keep us from forgiving someone else.
What keeps me from forgiving others who have wronged me?
—Br. John Moriconi, S.J., Provincial’s Secretary, Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits.
O God of boundless love and mercy, expand my heart today. Help me grow in patience and compassion. May I look into another’s eyes as you do. May I offer words of understanding and forgiveness as you do. May I find simple ways today to love others as you always do.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team