“Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.”

In an encounter between Jesus and Peter (Mt 18:21-35), the latter asks the former how often he should forgive someone who wrongs him.  Jesus responds that the number of times is unlimited and then He tells him how the kingdom of heaven is like a master who forgives an unfathomable debt to a servant who begs him to.  That servant, though, is unwilling to forgo the miniscule amount owed to him by a fellow servant.  When news of this incident comes back to the master, he angrily denounces the first servant and has him tortured (see above).  The same fate will be ours if we lack forgiveness for those who do us wrong.  Some people, including Christians, make a dichotomy between the “angry, vengeful, and spiteful God of the Old Testament and the gentle, forgiving, and loving God of the New Testament.”  Well, God is unchanging, so this is a false construction.  God is a loving Father who perfectly combines mercy and justice in dealing with His people throughout salvation history and as He does with each one of us.  The consequences are real and severe (whether in the temporary flames of purgatory or the permanent blaze of hell) for not following God’s command to “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Mt 6:12).  May it never come from our lips or remain in our minds that we cannot forgive someone for an evil done to us.  This is not the way of God and it is not to be our way.  Not that it is very easy to do, especially in the most egregious offenses.  But we must forgive even if we don’t feel like doing so.  And then we must continue to pray that our feelings will align with our wills so that forgiveness comes naturally.  And we must pray for those who hurt us: Jesus tells us, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father” (Mt 5:44-45a); Paul tells us, “Bless those who persecute [you], bless and do not curse them” (Rom 12:14).  There is no getting around this requirement if we are to be God’s children and see others as our brothers and sisters.  Radical forgiveness can change the world and provides a witness of God that is unmatched in changing hearts.

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