09-13-2020Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian

Our first reading this weekend is a fitting foundation for the Gospel of this Sunday. This passage from the Book of Sirach is a strong platform on which an understanding of our Gospel selection can be built. Sirach was a sacred book that was composed roughly 200 years before the time of Jesus. It was the son of Sirach who wrote this book in an attempt to help the Jews of then live in peace and harmony in the world of their day. He had much to tell them. He told them to let go of anger, as many of them held on tightly to this negative emotion. To them, anger seemed valuable, even when it was not. More importantly, he tells them our sins will be forgiven if we forgive others and, as importantly, we must show mercy in order to receive it.

In our Gospel passage, the Lord Jesus shows this great wisdom of Sirach when his follower Peter asks how often we need to forgive someone who has hurt us. In the story told by Jesus, we learn the king forgave the enormous debt of his servant, but the servant demanded payment and punishment when a fellow slave could not pay what he owed. Clearly we are to be like the king.

People say that when they have paid off their college loans or house mortgage they feel very relieved and feel better about life. The enormous weight of debt has been lifted and life is just easier and better. So it is very odd, besides very wrong, that the response of the servant to his fellow slave was one of greed and anger just after something so wonderful had happened to him.

We always need to ask God to forgive our wrongdoings and sins. In faith we know we are forgiven because Jesus died in order for our sins to be forgiven. Our God is clearly like the great king who forgave his servant, for God always forgives you and me. We need to ask ourselves this question: what happens when our peers come forward and ask for our forgiveness? It may very well be true that our own greatest sin is our inability to forgive one person or even more than one in our own lives.

Jesus announced to Peter that we must forgive seventy-seven times. Jesus did not expect us to use a calculator or spreadsheet to keep the total. What Jesus intended was simply that we must forgive over and over. These constant acts of forgiveness should help us develop the virtues of humility and graciousness. We also realize that we must also be willing to change and correct our wrongdoing when we ask for forgiveness. We learn from the actions and words of Christ that forgiveness requires a penitent heart and willingness to change, and also at times a heart willing to forgive.