“THE LORD IS COMPASSIONATE AND GRACIOUS, SLOW TO ANGER AND RICH IN MERCY”
????Sirach 27:30 – 28:7; Ps 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12 (R.v.8); Rom 14:7-9; Matt 18:21-35
Last Sunday, in the liturgy, we reflected on the necessity of forgiveness and fraternal correction in order to build up a harmonious community. But today, we are reminded that forgiveness is a norm that must be observed by all. Recall that Jesus had earlier said, “If you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive you either” (Matt 6:15).
Peter might have just recalled that teaching in Matt 6:14-15, and then, since Jesus just brought up the matter of forgiveness again, he wanted to make sure he is doing the right thing. The number “7”, as we have often noted, means “completion” or “perfection”. Hence, in his question (cf. Matt 18:21), Peter must have been wanting to respond to the call of Jesus for us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matt 5:48). But Jesus immediately broadened the teaching to inform us that the number is endless, and so we must forgive endlessly just as God continues to forgive us endlessly.
That would not be too difficult for us to do when we realize that we are not our own; we have been bought and paid for (1 Cor 6:20; Gal 3:13-15). Therefore, we can only live for the one who paid our ransom as St. Paul reminds us in the Second Reading. The one who had paid our ransom tells us, “I have just given you an example so that you also should do as I have done” (John 13:15). And while hanging on the cross, he said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Can you see then? Anger and wrath are really abominations for the children of God (cf. Sirach 27:30 – 28:7). If we fail to forgive, we shall be separating ourselves from the Lord and therefore calling for the same repercussion which the wicked servant got in Matt 18:23-35.
Meanwhile, think about this: if, from that parable of the unforgiving servant (Matt 18:23-35), the king represents God, and the servants represent us, while the man who owed him but was forgiven represents the sinner. The Lord ordered in Matt 18:34 that the servant should be locked out and tortured in a place UNTIL he pays back his debt in full. This place of torture could not be HELL because hell is a permanent place. But, the ‘until’ there already indicates it is a temporal place. Does that give you any insight about the doctrine of purgatory? Meditate deeply about that.
We however pray that God may grant us the grace to always forgive others from our heart so that that torture would never be our lot. Amen.
Peace be with you.