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March 14

FOCUS:  To receive the Lord’s mercy, we must extend it to others.


00:00 / 04:39

In our Gospel today, Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?" I imagine Peter being filled with frustration over the sinful behavior of a person in his life. Peter thought his suggestion, of forgiving his brother seven times, was very generous and would exceed Jesus’ expectations. And how does Jesus respond? Jesus answered, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”

This response had to shock Peter and the disciples. Jesus is saying that we should not keep track of how many times we forgive someone. We should always forgive those who are truly repentant no matter how many times they ask. Jesus goes on to tell the story of the Unforgiving Servant.

In Jesus’ time, serious consequences awaited those who could not pay their debt. A person lending money could seize the borrower who couldn’t pay and force him and his family to work until the debt was paid. The debtor could also be thrown into prison, or his family could be sold into slavery to help pay off the debt. It was hoped that the debtor, while in prison, would sell off his landholdings or relatives would pay the debt. If not, the debtor could remain in prison for life.

We hear in the story how merciful the King was to his servant when the servant fell on his knees and begged for more time to pay the debt. The King moved with pity canceled the debt and let the servant go. Wow! The King did not give the servant more time to pay his debt, he CANCELLED his debt! As hearers of the story, we are overjoyed by this generous response.

But instead of being grateful, the unforgiving servant demanded repayment of a debt owed to him by a fellow servant. When the servant could not pay, the unforgiving servant choked him and then had him thrown into prison. We, the audience, are outraged by this unjust behavior. How could the servant do this? Why didn’t he show the same mercy that the King had given him?

So, who are the real players in this story? The King is God our Father, rich in mercy, abounding in kindness as we hear in the psalm. The unforgiving servant is me. God forgives me every time I ask for forgiveness. There is no sin that God will not forgive if I am truly sorry. He not only forgives my sin, but He also cancels my debt. He wipes the slate clean. He gives me a new start and fills me with grace to make better choices.  And God asks one thing of me, to forgive my brother 77 times…each and every time as God forgives me.

I am the unforgiving servant who acts unjustly when I do not forgive my brother or sister, husband, child, parent, neighbor, friend, coworker. When I put myself into the story, I understand the importance of forgiveness. When I do not forgive, I put myself outside and above Christ’s law of love. And I must not only forgive others, but I also must forgive myself! In confession, I once said, “Father, I just cannot forgive myself” to which the priest replied, “Well, aren’t you prideful. God, creator of all things, has forgiven you and that is not enough for you?”

In this season of Lent and repentance, let us ask the Holy Spirit to make us aware of any unforgiveness in our hearts and to fill us with grace to forgive as we have been forgiven.

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