21st Sunday after Pentecost 5.10.08 Forgiving others.
It seems so easy when we hear that parable. It is so obvious how foolish that servant was for not releasing the other servant from the debt. We feel the indignation of the other servants and the king. He deserved to be punished for his hard-heartedness.
Yet we are not just observers of the scene. We are in that parable. We are that unforgiving servant, whenever we refuse to forgive someone who has offended us.
Forgiving those who offend us is one of the hardest things for a Christian. Why is it so hard?
Something to do with wounded pride. How dare anyone do that to me?
Something to do with ingratitude. We forget how lucky we are; we take it for granted.
Imagine you are on death row and one minute from death a reprieve comes. How relieved we would be, how happy. We would be on top of the world.
Well, that is how we should feel all the time insofar as we are forgiven by God and reprieved from going to hell, which is where we really deserve to go.
We should be walking around on our knees in gratitude.
But we forget so easily. We can walk out of the confessional and forget how lucky we are, and then proceed to throttle one another with unforgiveness.
We expect God to forgive us. Yet we deserve to go to hell. It is only by God’s mercy that we have any likelihood of going anywhere else. So we need to stay grateful.
If gratitude does not work, let’s come from another level.
Some offences are very hard to forgive. For example, if the offence is still current and repeated, and likely to keep going.
It is all a matter of how we put the question.
We might say, I could never forgive that!
Or we might say, X has offended me. I pray for him to become a good person, to be the person God created him to be. Put the second way it does not seem so hard.
The point is that if he did change I would like him!
Think of the saints. Do you think St Stephen would be mad with St Paul for condoning his death? Or St Maria Goretti with the man who stabbed her? Or Christ Himself with those who crucified Him?
No, the offence is swallowed up in an ocean of love. The offence is seen to be very small in the context of eternity, of God’s infinite love.
They really ‘do not know what they do’. To a point they know, but if they really understood the love of God they would not offend.
We are just praying bad people become good. (By the way ‘bad people’ includes us insofar as we also sin, we also offend others).
Is it so hard to want bad people to be good? It is a lot better than if they stay bad.
We like to see anything deformed made good. We could discover great beauty or goodness in others. It is an exciting possibility.
Sometimes the resentment can be so deep that the repentance of the other is resented. How can he repent on his deathbed and get to heaven like that after all he has done? But again, we all deserve hell. So we cannot resent someone else escaping it. We can escape too. Think of that ocean of God’s love. It won’t seem so hard once we get to heaven.
It is better if we do this willingly. If all else fails then the fear of being condemned ourselves should jolt us into forgiving.