Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.“ For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves.
When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’
Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, 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 slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Christ tells us to forgive everyone, but sometimes that does not seem so easy. Forgiving a debt is one thing, but what about those who really hurt us? Perhaps the difficulty springs from confusion as to what forgiveness really is.
Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, which is probably impossible anyway. It also does not mean that we ignore our anger and hurt. Doing so is just not healthy.
Forgiveness is a choice: the simple choice to love rather than to harm the person in return. By choosing love over vengeance, we free ourselves from remaining beholden to our pain. We free others to experience a love that leads to gratitude and reconciliation, and we free everyone to be united with Christ’s own loving heart.
Forgiveness does not mean pretending nothing happened or acting like there are no consequences. It just means choosing love. This Lent, let us choose love. For we have received the same love and merciful forgiveness from our God.
To whom in our lives can we give the gift of our forgiveness? Where are we in need of forgiveness: from others, from ourselves, from God?
—Stephen Kramer, SJ, is a Jesuit deacon of the Central and Southern Province currently finishing his Master’s degree in Theology at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. He will be ordained to the priesthood in June.
Our Lord Jesus Christ,
whose Most Sacred Heart flows with infinite mercy,
teach us to pray for those who persecute us,
to bless those who curse us,
and to forgive all who trespass against us.
Aware that we are granted mercy
in the same measure by which we show mercy,
strengthen us always to choose love
and to unite ourselves unceasingly
to your Most Sacred Heart.
—Stephen Kramer, SJ
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