“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 his brother from his heart.”

The end of Matthew 18 (vv.21-9:1) gives us Peter asking Jesus about forgiving others.  Peter asks Him how often he should forgive one who sins against him.  Jesus responds that it must be seventy-seven times.  For exposition, Jesus goes on to compare the Kingdom of heaven to a king and his servants.  A king, settling accounts with his debtors, asks a certain man to pay up an enormous amount.  The man begs and pleads to be given time to pay the king back and the king forgives the entire loan.    When, in turn, another man asks the same man for time to repay a much smaller loan, the first man does not relent.  When the king hears about the incident, he has the first man brought it, excoriates him for not behaving as the king himself did.  The story closes with the lines at top.  This passage should cause us deep reflection.  Like the first man in the story, we’ve been forgiven a debt so great than nothing we could ever do of our own power could ever repay it.  It took Jesus’ paschal mystery to do that.  All the Lord asks is that we do onto others as He has done unto us (cf. Mt 7:12).  This means forgiveness for the deepest hurts caused to us or to our loved ones (usually the latter are much more difficult to overcome).  And this cannot stop at a mouthing of words.  Jesus speaks of forgiveness “from the heart.”  How difficult this can be!  But we must forgive — the eternal consequences if we do not are clearly stated.  Just before He dies, the completely innocent God-Man gasped forth words of forgiveness and mercy upon His torturers and killers (Lk 23:34), dying for each of them as He did for each of us.  He wanted none of them to be lost (Mt 18:14).  He wants none of us to be lost.  So, we should not want others to be lost, either.  Forgiveness does not mean condoning sin.  Forgiveness does not oppose justice.  Forgiveness does emulate God who freely gives His mercy to us and requires us to extend it to others and thus be an example of Christian love to all persons.

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