Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight. The vengeful will suffer the Lord’s vengeance, for he remembers their sins in detail. Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven. Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord? Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself, can he seek pardon for his own sins? If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath, who will forgive his sins? Remember your last days, set enmity aside; remember death and decay, and cease from sin! Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor; remember the Most High’s covenant, and overlook faults.
Brothers and sisters: None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For this is why Christ died and came to life, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.
Gospel Cycle Cycle A
Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt. At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’ Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan. When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized one of his fellow servants and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison until he paid back the debt. Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ 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 your brother from your heart.”
Do I always forgive others? This is today’s challenge from our readings. Or do I forgive some who offend me and not others? Am I a person who bears grudges? How do I deal with the person who harms me or hurts my feelings?
Only God can give us the grace to forgive all others, those who have harmed us in any way at all. God’s calls us to immediate and complete forgiveness of others. God is so clear in today’s readings: if you do not forgive, how can you possibly ask forgiveness?
We know the story of the older brother within the story of the prodigal son. The older brother really resents his younger brother. The younger brother goes off and wastes all of his inheritance and then comes home and is received with incredible kindness and love by his father. This is truly injustice! And yet it is how God wants us to live: judge not and you will not be judged!
How do I treat the person who harms me? Jesus gives us the story of the servant who could not pay his debt. None of us can repay our debt to the Lord. Should God then put us in prison and torture us? Instead he forgives us our debts and asks us to forgive others.
All of us who have sinned can understand the debt that we owe to the Lord. The more we see that debt, the more we can understand that we must forgive others. So much of our spiritual literature is focused on this type of forgiveness: look at the beam in your own eye before you try to take out the small piece of straw in the eye of your brother!
The Book of Sirach spells out the teaching of today’s Gospel as well: If anyone who is flesh cherishes wrath, who can forgive his sins? In order to be forgiven, we must learn to forgive.
The Letter to the Romans also speaks of our debt to one another: None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. We can only truly live when we live for the Lord—and the Lord is always compassionate and merciful. Today, when we hear His voice, let us not harden our hearts. Instead, let us learn to forgive, even those things that seem unforgivable. It is God Himself inviting us to cleanse our souls and to forgive all who have harmed us in any way. Every time that we hold on to our anger, we damage only ourselves. Every time that we refuse forgiveness, we harm ourselves.
Let us live for God and live God’s forgiveness every day—from our hearts!