Our Lectio Divina for this Friday corresponds to the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Mt 18: 21-35 I do not tell you to forgive seven times, but seventy-seven times

One

There can be no half measures here. This passage is very clear. We must forgive or we will not be forgiven. It is a very difficult almost impossible think to do for some people. I think about people like Madeleine McCann’s parents who I know have a deep faith or Helen McCourt’s mother whose daughter’s murderer won’t say where her body is. There are a lot of people in these terrible situations. I don’t know if they have forgiven or not but would I be able to forgive. If someone hurt my family, God forbid, how would I cope with it? There are people like Saint John Paul II who forgave the man who shot him and Mr Wilson who forgave the IRA for murdering his daughter. As a Catholic, I go to Confession and say I am sorry for what I have done wrong against God, who has given me life and everything in it and I ask Him to forgive me and he does. How can I then not forgive people who wrong me? When my time comes, I want to go to God having paid my debt of forgiveness as He has forgiven me.

Two

Not 7 but 77 or 70×7=490

Did Jesus mean Peter to count? I think not, rather that forgiveness is to be countless, an ongoing habit, never ending

I do not read the story of the king settling accounts as “if you are forgiven then you should forgive”, though that may sometimes be helpful

Rather, that in the process of forgiving we are forgiven

Forgive us our sins as we forgive… That word “as” can mean – at the same time, in the same way, as part of the same process, and so on

And there is a profound sense in which the only true forgiveness is to forgive ourselves, the same sense in which we realise that our neighbour is not separate but an extension of the self

Love your neighbour as yourself – so forgiving the neighbour is indeed forgiving the self

After WWII a plaque was erected on the ruins of Coventry cathedral, with the words “Father, forgive”

Some thought that it should have said “Father, forgive them”, meaning those who had bombed…

But the original still stands – there is only forgiveness, no “us and them”

If you are a Christian there is no “they”, only “we”

I needed to be reminded of this.

Three

In today’s passage Jesus acknowledges our humanity by pointing out the need to forgive over and over again. Even with the best of intentions we all fall short of practicing the Golden Rule. We step on each other’s toes, and need to forgive ourselves and others. When we have wronged not only do we need to ask God to forgive us but we need to make amends to those we have wronged, sometimes by going directly to them and asking for their forgiveness, sometimes by just changing our behavior. I would add that sometimes we need to be on the amends list too as we are often harder on ourselves than we would be on others.

From my experience forgiveness is a process. God brings to our awareness, through our willingness, areas of our lives that need to be reconciled. Denial is powerful and we make excuses and justify why we are holding on to past hurts. We are taken hostage by our resentments when we don’t forgive others and we punish ourselves and can find no peace until we become willing to forgive.

St Theresa of Avila in her book, The Interior Castle, says that our most important task is to cultivate humility and self awareness. Prayer, meditation and journalling are doorways for God to shed light on areas of my life that I am not able to look at honestly. He will show me the necessary action I need to take. Pride gets in the way of humility and sometimes pride wins and sadly the action gets put on hold.

Dear Lord, help me to accept that none of us are perfect including me. Give me the compassion to forgive myself and other, and the courage to look at the part I have played in any discord and to make amends where necessary.

Four

Everything that God does is to confirm what He had said previously in the Old Testament. The plans He has for us is to prosper us and give us hope and a future. Everything is for our own good which Jesus came to fulfill. If we forgive one another and live in harmony then there will be peace amongst us.

However, it is not that easy to forgive and in my case, (giving glory to God) I haven’t had major issues like those persecuted, raped, loved ones murdered in terrorist actions where I am not sure what I would do. I only hope that as a Christian, through the power of the Holy Spirit I would forgive.

As for the master and servant scenario which Jesus used as example to enable us to understand how forgiveness works. Its a good template for us to live by and I pray that as we mature in our faith we be more and more like Jesus.

God bless us all.

Five

‘has no means of paying’
When in the Gospels the evangelists want to make a point they exaggerate, (which is a very common thing in all the Mediterranean, and definitively at the times of Christ). And what a point!

I have read that a talent was the equivalent of 15 years wages, and 10,000 talents was more than the total budget of an ordinary province. In Jesus time the total revenue of Idumaea, Judaea and Samaria was only 600 talents; whereas the total revenue of a wealthy province like Galilee was only 300 talents.

So the first servant owed a super huge debt, one that could never repaid. By contrast the second servant owed the first just 100 denarii, and a denarius being a day’s wage; a fraction of the debt which had caused him to beg for mercy.

And there I am too, unable to repaid my huge, huge debt.

When I do something wrong I feel physically ill. But I know there is not sin beyond the forgiveness of God. The Sacrament of Confession brings me a great relief, by removing from my shoulder the burden, then I feel grateful, joyful, free to start anew.

Though there is not ever being easy the path of forgiveness for me, especially when my children were hurt so badly and for so long, plus all the consequences thereafter… I wasn’t able to forgive. I felt very inadequate every time I tried to pray the Our Father, always stuck in the ‘as we forgive’, for I knew I wasn’t capable of doing so. Worst was in the Eucharist, I felt no worthy of receiving Communion.

But a friend priest told me to continue receiving the Eucharist, because there was my strength, and to continue praying to God for the grace of forgiving.

While comparing why I was always able to forgive my children and not those who hurt them, another priest told me the reason was that I loved my children therefore I was able to forgive them. In consequence, I thought, I was not loving those who hurt my children. How could I? It was something visceral, I was NOT able.

A third priest told me that in asking for forgiveness, God is not exactly asking us to love them like we love those close to us; which in some cases is humanly impossible; but just asking us not to wish bad things to come to those people.

That was awesome for me, because I never wished anything wrong or bad to come to others. A huge relief that allowed me to go forward. I always had and have prayed for them to be happy in their lives; because for me is clear whoever is happy and joyful in his/her live doesn’t have time to wrong doing anybody.

God has infinite times forgiving my sins and granted me the grace at the end to be able to forgive; although it wasn’t automatic, it took me a long time, and in the process I became closer to God. I don’t keep any resentment or anger against anybody. God did saved me again, freeing me from the slavery of my own incapacity of forgiving.

And there where so many more other times I have experienced His mercy and love….
My debt with You Lord started when I was born, every time You rescued me, every time You showed me your love and compassion.. Thank You for all your blessings, for being able to finally forgive, for your infinite mercy for me and all this world in so desperate need of You.
And what does all this mean for me today? Where are You leading me now? I have no idea. I am in your almighty hands Lord. Do as You will, I trust in You.

Sometimes I/ we are not able to recognise the impact our words and deeds have on other people lives.

In these days, when we can’t have social contact, when we can’t touch or hug each other, please Lord, make my words a cuddle for others, make my heart open to your will, make me the person You want me to be, full of forgiveness, compassion and love.