“Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him?
If we find forgiveness hard for us today, it was even more complicated in Jesus’ day. Then, the sense of honor was deeply ingrained in society. We can see this even today in honor killings that still take place in countries like India. Yet, Jesus tells us that we must forgive seventy times seven times—490—in other words, without limit. Psychologically, this may be the most challenging thing Jesus ever asked of his disciples. Luke tells us that when the disciples heard this, they exclaimed, “Increase our faith!” (17:5).
Let us not forget that we pray daily, asking God to forgive us as we forgive others. Do we really mean that? If we fail to forgive and hang on to our anger over how others treat us, how can we expect to be forgiven ourselves? To say that God will forgive us only if we forgive others is not to claim that God will ever refuse to forgive us. Only that even God’s desire to pour his forgiveness into our hearts is impossible if our hearts are closed because of our hard-heartedness.
Jesus does not even mention what forgiveness does for the one who forgives. Yet, Jesus’ teaching here is not so much theology but an inescapable reality. Our coldheartedness prevents us from receiving love, mercy, and forgiveness, closing us in on ourselves. Jesus forgave those who betrayed him, denied him, or abandoned him in his most profound need because he did not allow the evil done him to diminish him in any way. Each communion gives us the strength to imitate Jesus in this regard, but only if we are willing to live with the peace of Christ in our hearts.
Let Us Pray:
O Lord, help me to forgive as you forgave. May I always spread your peace wherever I go and with all I meet.