Dear friends. Last April, the First Confession of the children in second class was postponed as was the First Holy Communion in May, due to COVID-19. Thankfully, the First Confession has been rescheduled for the end of this month and the First Communion for the beginning of October. During the week, I visited the classes of the children again to help prepare them for their First Confession and to talk with them about forgiveness. On my visit to one class, I was about to tell them the story of today’s Gospel of the King who pardoned the servant of a huge debt and how this same servant could not forgive someone who owed him a small amount. All of a sudden, I caught sight of a crucifix on the wall and instead of beginning with teaching about forgiveness, I pointed to an example of forgiveness.
I reminded the children of how bad men did bad and cruel things to Jesus at the end of his life. But as they were doing these things, Jesus said a prayer for those who were hurting him: ‘Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing’. Also how at his first appearance after he has risen from the dead, his first words to those who had abandoned him were ‘Shalom…peace my friends’. He then proceeded to share the Eucharist with them in prayerful joy (Luke 24) and offered Peter forgiveness and healing (John 21).
If you or I are struggling to forgive someone and nurture a grudge or a resentment, can I suggest a powerful spiritual exercise – to contemplate for a few minutes the person of Jesus on the cross. Because in that prayerful time, we receive a grace and an ability to forgive in a way that we would never be able to do by ourselves. In that prayer, we come to see how Jesus reveals the depths of God’s mercy, what it cost him and how generously he wants us to have that mercy. But there is another effect of contemplating the cross. In the mystery of the Lord’s cross we see how we are called to offer to others what we have generously received first. For in the words of the first reading: ‘If someone nurses anger against another can he then demand compassion from the Lord?’ That is the point of the Gospel story today of the servant who was forgiven much but could not forgive even a small amount himself.
And that is why the ‘Our Father’ is such a dangerous prayer. Think about it. Every time we pray it, we are asking the Father to forgive us in the measure that we forgive those who sin against us. And so let the Word of God make a difference today. If there is someone we hold a grudge against, consider some gesture of outreach like a phone call, a text, a card, a conversation or even a smile. And do it always, in Jesus name.
Friends, forgiveness is one of the most demanding aspects of our Christian commitment and most important. God wants to and does forgive us ‘seventy-seven times’ when we ask, that is, always. But he wants us to pass on the gift that we have received. Important? Absolutely! Easy? No! Yet today’s first reading and Gospel show us how it is possible – by contemplating how much we have been forgiven by God and the price that Jesus paid on the cross so that we might enjoy the forgiveness that leads to healing and joy.
I conclude with profound words from the Catechism that comments on the line of the ‘Our Father’ where we ask God to ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’. It says: ‘It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2843).
Give us the grace Lord to forgive as we have been forgiven.