XXIV SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
sirach 27:30—28:7; romans 14:7-9; matthew 18:21-35
corrie ten boom lost her whole family in the nazi concentration camps. after the war, she travelled about europe lecturing on forgiveness and reconciliation. after a talk in munich, a man came forward to thank her for the talk and reached out to shake her hand. she recognized him as a guard in the camp in which she was interred! corrie froze. she felt deep resentment and revulsion. she had just spoken about forgiveness and she couldn’t forgive someone.
we can empathise with corrie’s experience. forgiveness is difficult. we experience deep hurt, the kind that remains for years; we think we have forgiven, but then we meet the person who hurt us and the feelings resurface.
it’s not surprising, therefore, that peter asks jesus in the gospel: «how often must i forgive my brother? seven times?» it was rabbinic teaching that a man must forgive his brother thrice. peter doubles the rabbinic three, adds one, and suggests that forgiving seven times is enough.
jesus’ answer (seventy-seven times) reverses the old law of vengeance: «if cain is to be avenged seven-fold, truly lamech is to be avenged seventy and seven-fold» (genesis 4:24). for the jews there was no limit to hatred and vengeance; for jesus’ disciples there can be no limit to love and forgiveness.
jesus emphasises this through the parable of the two debtors. the contrast between the debts is staggering. the offences we suffer from other humans are nothing compared to our offences against GOD. and while GOD forgives all, we do not.
we often hear and say «i can forgive but i can’t forget.»
it is when we forget that we cannot forgive… it is when we forget GOD’s forgiving love that we cannot forgive.
corrie ten boom did forgive the ex-nazi guard! after a moment of prayerful reflection, she remembered GOD’s gracious and forgiving love towards her, and embraced the man.
what unforgiven hurts still torture me? is there anyone i have not forgiven?
let me remember GOD’s immense compassion towards me and forgive that person from the heart.