by Fr. Tommy Lane
Christianity is unique among religions in our belief in the intensity of God’s love and God’s closeness to us and God’s desire to forgive us. In some religions there is no personal relationship with God. In some, God is not forgiving, or if God is forgiving there is no personal relationship, or there is a limited belief in God as a forgiving God. But Christianity is unique among religions in our belief in the intensity of God’s love and God’s closeness to us and God’s desire to forgive us. That is not surprising since only Christianity enjoys the fullness of God’s self-revelation in Jesus. God revealed himself in Jesus and revealed his closeness to us and desire to forgive us.
At the time of Jesus some rabbis taught that there was a limit to the times you would forgive. They said you should forgive three times but not after that. When Peter asked Jesus if he should forgive seven times he was being generous, more than double what was expected at the time. Jesus responded, not just seven times, but seventy-seven times. In other words, there is to be no limit to our forgiveness. To teach us Jesus then proceeds to tell a parable. A king forgave a servant a huge sum owed. Our translation of Matthew’s Greek doesn’t bring out the size of the sum owed, it was 10,000 talents. One talent was 6,000 times the daily wage, so 10,000 talents is 60 million times the daily wage. This amount was so huge that servant could never pay it back. The king forgave this servant. This servant then meets a fellow servant who owes him 100 denarii. A denarius was one day’s wage. He is owed 100 days’ wages, which is nothing by comparison with the 60 million days’ wages that he has just been forgiven by the king. Nevertheless he doesn’t forgive and is then punished by the king. The point of Jesus’ parable is that the debt of our sin is beyond what we can humanly pay back to our heavenly Father. Jesus paid that price for us on Calvary. When someone offends us Jesus asks us to forgive, not just seven times, but seventy seven times, i.e. to forgive always. We have been forgiven 60 million days wages by God through Jesus and when someone offends us we are asked to forgive the paltry sum of 100 days wages by comparison.
Jesus himself leads us in forgiving and is for us a model in forgiving those who have hurt us. We see this above all during Jesus’ Passion.
When Jesus and the apostles were in Gethsemane, soldiers came from the Sanhedrin to arrest Jesus. There was a scuffle and Peter cut off the ear of one of the servants of the high priest named Malchus (John 18:10) But Jesus told Peter to put his sword away (John 18:11) and he touched Malchus’ ear and healed it (Luke 22:51). Jesus forgave and physically healed the one who came to arrest him. This is not the only healing incident that takes place during Jesus’ Passion; Pilate and Herod had been enemies but became friends on the day of Jesus’ trial (Luke 23:12).
During his trial before the high priest one of the officers slapped Jesus (John 18:22). Jesus responded calmly asking him to point out whatever was erroneous in Jesus’ statements (John 18:23).
When Jesus was being crucified he prayed for his crucifixioners, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) At the very moment when the nails were being driven into Jesus, what we see most of all in Jesus is his forgiveness.
After Jesus’ resurrection when Peter and the others were fishing, Jesus appeared on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (John 21) cooking fish over a charcoal fire. When they came ashore after breakfast three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved him. Each time Peter professed his love for Christ and each time Jesus asked him to look after the flock. Three times by a charcoal fire (John 18:18) Peter had denied Jesus by the high priest’s house. Now three times by another charcoal fire Jesus asks Peter if he loves him, and Jesus restores Peter again. Once again we see the forgiveness of Christ.
Everyone knows forgiving is not easy and may be difficult depending on the person and events involved but it is the only way forward. As long as we do not forgive we are not free. Forgiveness is freedom. If we do not choose the freedom of forgiveness in this life, I believe that in Purgatory we will want to choose the freedom of forgiveness in order to enjoy heaven.
Christianity is unique among religions in our belief in the intensity of God’s love and closeness to us and God’s desire to forgive us. That is not surprising since only Christianity enjoys the fullness of God’s self-revelation in Jesus. God revealed himself in Jesus and revealed his closeness to us and desire to forgive us. Jesus is our model in forgiveness. Many times during his Passion we see Jesus forgiving those harming him. Jesus’ Passion has earned for us the forgiveness of 60 million days’ wages of sin and when someone offends us we are asked to forgive a paltry 100 days’ wages.
Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2011
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stories about reconciliation
stories about human forgiveness
stories about God’s mercy