Forgive Me, as I Forgive Others (Mt 6:12)
“The first gift too offer to God is a heart that is cleansed of all coldness and of all unfriendliness towards our brother.” (Note 1)
“It is something worthy of our reflection that God has made the pardon that we hope for from him depend upon the pardon that he commands us to give to those who have offended us. Not content to have constantly inculcated this obligation, he has placed it in our own mouths in our daily prayer, so that should we fail to pardon, he will say to us what he said to the wicked servant: “I condemn you out of your own mouth!” (cf. Luke 19:22). You asked pardon from me, promising to pardon in return. You have pronounced your own sentence when you refused to pardon your brother.” (Note 2)
“Before forgiveness there are really two burdens: one person is carrying the burden of guilt and the other person the burden of resentment. Forgiveness sets both parties free. Only with true forgiveness can we be released from all our tensions, grudges, resentment and thoughts of vengeance. Going over my own failures somehow makes it much easier to forgive others.” (Note 3)
“Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents; and as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But that same servant, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and besought him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison till he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, 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 servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Mt 18:21-35 (RSV))
Today’s readings are all about forgiveness – forgiving your brother as you seek forgiveness from God (cf Mt 6:12). In the Gospel reading, Jesus tells Peter that we should forgive our brother seventy times seven times. Jesus isn’t being literal with his number — he doesn’t want you to tick off the times you’ve forgiven your brother and when you reach 490, that’s it. He was being allegorical and meaning for you to ALWAYS forgive your brother, regardless of how many times you have forgiven him. The parable of the unforgiving servant that follows this exhortation is an allegorical representation of our duty to forgive as laid out in the Lord’s Prayer (the prayer that will condemn us from our own mouths, according to Bossuet). We are the unforgiving servant and the king is God. If we do not forgive our brothers, God will not forgive us.
This forgiveness is an act of contrition based on the love we have for our brother. On EWTN this morning during mass, the Father spoke of contrition in two terms, though I don’t remember the words he used. Regardless, I’ll dub them a pure and an impure contrition — the meaning it conveys is sufficient.
An impure contrition is a contrition we make out of fear of hell and punishment. We forgive our brother because we are afraid if we don’t, we’ll go to hell.
A pure contrition is a contrition we make out of love for God and our fellow man. We don’t do it because we fear hell, we do it because we love God and our brother.
This is something I definitely need to work on, not just a pure contrition, but forgiveness for my brother. I still have a long ways to go …
1. Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Lent, trans. Christopher O. Blum (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2013), 81.
2. Bossuet, Meditations, 83.
3. John Powell, SJ, “Forgiveness Needed”. In Renewing Our Discipleship, Daily Reflections on the 2017 Lenten Readings for Mass, ed. Steve Mueller (St Louis, MO: All Saints Press, 2017), 21.