March 10, 2015

The Gospel Today

Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent

Mathew 18:21-35

Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive him?
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 him 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 him 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.”

Reflection (Sem. Alfredo Dimaano, Jr.):

I finished a degree in Statistics. Yes, I deal with numbers and my job before was to make sense of what the data or figures say.

Today’s reading presents to us some statistics. But in the context of faith, we look beyond the numbers and see God’s message embedded in them.

“How often must we forgive? As many as seven times?” This is Peter’s question to Jesus. The apostle even suggested a quantity, seven, which is a symbol of perfection for Jews. Maybe, he thought that by saying so, he would already meet what is beyond the usual. But Jesus’ reply speaks of a limitless, endless kind of forgiveness for indeed, God’s mercy is not something quantifiable. Not seven, but seventy-seven times! The number is more than mere statistics. As Jesus is limitless in forgiving us, we must be so. For one who has received much mercy, he must be grateful by being merciful too toward others.

All of us sin and with repentance and the resolve to avoid occasions to commit such again, we are invited to submit ourselves to the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. For me, it is always a grace to be forgiven from my sins. The challenge for me is to do the same: as I have been forgiven, I can be an extension of God’s endless grace by forgiving those who have wronged me. My spiritual director gave a good suggestion: whenever I pray the Lord’s Prayer, I may stop at the “forgive us our trespasses” part and think of the persons that I have wronged and sincerely say a prayer for each of them. And when I reach the part where I pray: “as we forgive those who trespassed against us”, I must remember those who have wronged me and pray for the grace to forgive them. So far, this has worked well for me.

I must forgive not only to be reconciled with others but also to bring peace to myself. When I am not in good terms with others, I also feel the guilt and pride ruling within me and causing me to think badly of others. To forgive is to be free from all the anxieties and worries caused by the hardness of my heart. I must never lose sight of the grace to forgive. When I look at myself and my many failings and unfaithfulness to the Lord and experience God’s forgiveness, it would be very shameful for me to not forgive in return.

To end, I saw a t-shirt design which caught my attention that says: 1 Cross + 3 Nails = 4giveness. Very true. This mathematical expression clearly states that since Jesus died for us to redeem us from our sins, we must share the task to also forgive. In the end, forgiveness is a sign of love and as St. Francis of Sales said, the measure of love is to love without measure. God forgives us endlessly. We must do the same. Amen.

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