How are we to forgive?

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sirach 27:30-28:9

Romans 14: 7-9

Matthew 18: 21-35

Have you ever thought or maybe even said to a person, “Because you have done this to me, I will never forgive you?” Whoever that person is that we need to forgive, hold them in your heart as I speak. Forgiveness is hard, and it may be the hardest thing in the world to do, but when we do forgive someone, it can release us from years of pain and bitterness.  

In our Gospel, Peter asks, “Lord, how many times should I forgive? Seven times?” Peter thinks he has given a great answer by doubling what was required of him by Jewish law. Jesus answers, “No! Not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Forgiveness for Jesus is not about a number; it is a way of life. It is a way to reorientation ourselves in the world to Christ.

Before I go on, I think it helps to have a basic understanding of the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness is a one-way street. Forgiveness is a God-given power given to each of us, and it is up to use to this power. Forgiveness is not about changing the other person; it is about changing us. Forgiveness is a process; it takes time; there is no easy road to forgiveness. When we struggle to forgive someone, I think it helps to remember God has forgiven us from our grievous acts. If we hold on to anger and hatred, we can become what we hate in the other. Forgiveness does not free the other from the consequences of their actions. Wrongful acts have consequences to them when acted on.

Reconciliation is a two-way street, as it requires the act of two people coming together by mutual consent to apologize to ask for forgiveness, and to be reconciled. Reconciliation is what we hope for, but it is not always achievable.

My friends in Christ, if I am very honest with myself when I think of the person/persons I need to forgive, I probably need to ask forgiveness from them to me. Because I was not the person I was called to be, and I did not allow the person to be the person they were called to be. We have a decision to make at the bottom of our hearts. When we come to the table of the Lord, we already know that we have been forgiven, may we receive the grace to forgive another! May we learn to forgive!

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