Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent, March 9
If We Expect God to Show Us His Mercy, Then We Must Begin to Show Others the Same Mercy and Forgiveness That We Are Asking for Ourselves, Always Remembering That It Is Through the Example of the Cross that We Have Been Forgiven.
We hear a question in today’s Gospel which Peter poses to Jesus, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him?”
Many times in my life, I have heard people say, “I cannot forgive my father…I cannot forgive my mother…I cannot forgive my husband…my wife” – all because the hurt was too great. And they could not forgive because they were not able to love selflessly.
Many years ago, I was friends with this one couple, a husband and wife who had been married for several years. Their relationship, however, was anything but peaceful. It would seem that they would always find ways of disparaging each other – ridiculing and criticizing one another, sometimes over the simplest things.
Theirs was a relationship that always ended up in pain, each being hurt, each finding it difficult to forgive the other. I remember being asked for my advice, and I commented that unless they found a way to love each other without unrealistic expectations, unless they learned to give selflessly to each other without qualification, their relationship might reach a point where it would be very difficult to turn back the clock, where it would be very difficult to forgive and forget all the hurts they had caused each other over the passage of time.
And the greatest victims in the failure of spouses to forgive each other are oftentimes the children, innocent victims of a situation over which they generally have little or no control, especially if they are very young and are not able to understand what is happening to their family.
“…how often must I forgive him?” And Jesus’ answer to Peter, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.” – an answer which implies without limit!
Sometimes, it is so hard to forgive when we have been deeply wounded. And this true story, which I just spoke of, is only one of an untold number of sad stories about personal pain and unforgiveness within human relationships, which can be found throughout the world in every generation since the dawning of man.
And when children are involved, the pattern of being unable to forgive oftentimes continues, wherein we hear stories of children, brought up in a one-parent household, who have a very difficult time forgiving the mother or the father who left the relationship for whatever reason, or who may have abandoned them.
It is a heartbreaking situation in which the child, maybe even now an adult, still cannot deal with a very hurtful and personal situation, and so the relationship between the child and the missing parent remains dysfunctional, because forgiveness becomes an issue with which the child cannot yet come to terms – possibly learned from the behavior he or she witnessed in the parents many years earlier.
We see this inability to forgive even in people who have been sexually abused by someone in whom they had once placed their complete trust, as seen in the emotional sufferings resulting from the sexual abuse of children by persons they once trusted and looked up to –
– for they are scars which will long be present in the minds and hearts of those who were innocent victims, who had placed an unquestioning trust in those who should have lived moral lives, remembering the each of us must one day be judged by God for all that we have said and done.
Yet, in today’s Gospel, our Lord teaches us about how our Heavenly Father approaches forgiveness. If one humbly comes forward, with a truly contrite (sorrowful) heart and a firm purpose of amending his or her life, God does not hesitate to grant us absolution from our sins. And we read today Jesus’ words, “Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him.”
However, only God can read the human heart, and if all we do is mouth the words of sorrow, but with no real intent on changing our lives, then, as Scripture tells us today, “Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.”
When we take the time to sit down and read Sacred Scripture, whether it be a daily practice of reading the Bible, or by reflecting upon the daily Scripture Readings from Mass, it becomes important that we try and understand what our Lord is teaching us through the inspired Word of God.
Our Lord is teaching us today that living the virtues of compassion and mercy in our own lives are so important for our own salvation! Not listening to what God is saying, not listening to His words of Truth, will not only create difficulties for us here in this life, but will also affect how we end up living the next!
Azariah, who was about to be burned alive for refusing to worship foreign gods, recognizes the weaknesses which lie within each of our hearts. And, in our First Reading today, we hear him crying out to God, imploring His forgiveness –
“For your name’s sake, O Lord, do not deliver us up forever, or make void your covenant. Do not take away your mercy from us…but deal with us in your kindness and great mercy. Deliver us by your wonders, and bring glory to your name, O Lord.”
If we expect God to forgive our many shortcomings, if we expect him to show us His Mercy, then we must begin to show others the same mercy and forgiveness that we are asking for ourselves.
We must be ready to forgive others as we are asking God to forgive each of us, always remembering our Lord’s words which we find in Matthew’s Gospel, “But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions” – for God Himself gave us the supreme example of Divine Mercy when, after His Son was nailed to His Cross, we hear our Lord offer a prayer to His Father, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”
If Jesus was willing to undergo the agonizing sufferings He endured in His Passion, so that we may be forgiven and reconciled to His Eternal Father, can we not, in some fashion, find it within ourselves to forgive those who have hurt us?
Forgiveness takes humility, and it takes genuine Christian love to be able to forgive. No one said it would be easy, but with God’s help all things are possible. All we need to do is reach out to our Lord and ask for His help and guidance.
During our Lenten journey, as you and I travel towards Good Friday, the day on which Christ poured out His Most Precious Blood for each of us – for our forgiveness and reconciliation – let us pray for the Divine grace of being kind and forgiving towards others, as our Lord is towards us.
And let us pray that all of God’s children may, one day, be free from all bitterness and resentment, and that each of us may truly forgive from the depths of our hearts, so that we may live together in a peace which can only come as an eternal gift from God’s Spirit of Love and Truth.
“…how often must I forgive?”
As often as necessary, for Jesus gave to both you and me the ultimate and supreme example to follow when He spread His arms out wide for each and every one of us! †
Please Comment, Like and Share, and Suggest to your Facebook friends – to spread the message of God’s Merciful Love.
Por favor Comente, Le Gusta y Comparta, y Sugiera a tus amigos en Facebook – en difundir el mensaje del Misericordioso Amor de Dios.
Scripture for the Day
- “For your name’s sake, O Lord, do not deliver us up forever, or make void your covenant. Do not take away your mercy from us…but deal with us in your kindness and great mercy. Deliver us by your wonders, and bring glory to your name, O Lord.” (Daniel 3:34-35a, 42b-43)
- “Then Peter approaching asked him, ‘Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?’” (Matthew 18:21)
- “Jesus answered, ‘I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.’” (Matthew 18:22)
- “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 his brother from his heart.” (Matthew 18:32-35)
- “Good and upright is the LORD; thus he shows sinners the way. He guides the humble to justice, he teaches the humble his way.” (Psalm 25:8-9)
- “Give us today our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:11-12)
- “When you stand to pray, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance, so that your heavenly Father may in turn forgive you your transgressions.” (Mark 11:25)
- “But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:15)
- “Be merciful, just as also your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven…For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” (Luke 6:36-37, 38c)
- “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.’” (Luke 23:34a)
Prayer for the Day
“Faithful and Merciful Lord,Anonymous
You suffered and endured death for me;
You have consummated the debt of my sins;
Your sacrifice of forgiveness was absolute!
“Grant me the strength to also forgive others,
to excuse their transgressions against me.
So I may truly reflect this spiritual fruit,
assist me in obliterating any persistent feelings of malice.
“Let each trespass end as a closing chapter in my life,
as I continue on the path to righteousness.
Forgive my sins as I aspire to forgive others;
as I receive Divine Mercy from You, help me to show mercy to others.
“You are truly the Supreme Model of forgiveness,
for it is in Your Cross that we are pardoned.
Grant me the grace to always imitate You in my life,
for You are truly a Most Faithful and Merciful Lord!”