Then Peter came up to him and said, 'Lord, how often shall my brother
sin against me and
I forgive him? As many as seven times?' Jesus said to him, 'I do
not say to you seven
times but seventy times seven." - Matthew 18: 22
Pope (1688-1744), gave us
encouraging words on forgiveness in his famous quote:
"To err is human. To forgive, divine."
One day during a religious class, a teacher was speaking to her class about
forgiveness. After giving an example of a
woman offended by unkind remarks a neighbor made
to her, the teacher asked, "Should
that person forgive the neighbor?" Some
screamed, "Never", others thoughtfully said "Maybe", and some quietly
mumbled "I think I would". After
restoring order, the teacher told each person to bring a clear plastic sack of potatoes to
school the following morning. The next day
the students arrived, each carrying a sack.
The class was told, "For
every person that you refused to forgive, choose a potato and write that
person's name along with the date on it, then put it in your plastic bag."
Some bags became heavy with remembered
offenses. Students were told to carry the bags everywhere they went for one week, sitting it beside their bed at night, on the
car seat when driving, or next to their desk at work.
At the end of the week, the teacher invited the class to share what they
learned from this task. With wry grins, the ones who had shouted
the hassle of lugging the heavy load around emphasized the
burden they carried spiritually by being unforgiving of others. "That
bag grew heavier as each day passed and it was constantly on our minds
particularly when we could see the potatoes begin to shrivel up and
die". Others said
they kept remembering times they themselves asked the Lord to
forgive them, and one student
quoted Matthews 6: 15-16 saying, If you forgive those who sin against you, your
heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive, your Father will
not forgive your sins." The class burst into
weight of carrying grudges, spite,
hatred represented within
those bags exemplify the load we carry by not giving forgiveness to
others. It is
the price we pay for
holding our pain and heavy negativity within our hearts without release! Too often we think of
forgiveness as a gift to the other person, but it is also clearly for ourselves!
And so, those of us who do not
will be like those potatoes which, in time,
will deteriorate into a nasty, odorous, and unbearable slime.
will lurk within our hearts and tear at our peace, stealing the
joy God wants us to have.
Father Robert Barron, the chair of the Systematic Theology
department at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary has this to say
about forgiveness: "Forgiveness is at the very
heart of the teaching and lifestyle of Jesus. To forgive is actively to heal a
broken relationship, to seek out the one from whom we are alienated. How often do we
do it? As often as it is required, for there is nothing more important in the body
of Christ". He continues, " Our capacity to forgive others is
tightly linked to our realization that we have been forgiven by God. When we try to
justify an ethic of radical forgiveness on purely humanistic grounds, we will fail. But
when we know in our bones that our sins have been eradicated through the cross of Christ,
then we are able to forgive one another even seventy times seven times." Hear this dynamic speaker via radio
at this link:
In Matthew 18:23-35, Jesus
tells Peter, "The Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to
bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed
money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought
in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn't pay, so his
master ordered that he be sold along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned to pay the debt. But
the man fell down before his master and begged him, Please, be patient with me, and
I will pay it all. Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him
and forgave his debt.
man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand
dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant
payment. His fellow servant fell down before
him and begged for a little more time. "Be patient with me, and
I will pay it," he pleaded. But his creditor
wouldnt wait. He had the man arrested
and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full. When
some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told
him everything that had happened. Then the
king called in the man he had forgiven and said, You evil servant! I forgave you
that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldnt
you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you? Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be
tortured until he had paid his entire debt."
said, Thats what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive
your brothers and sisters from your heart".
Josef Pieper in "The
Concept of Sin" writes, ... "Forgiveness can be vouchsafed only to
the one who wants it, or at least is willing to accept it. If someone who were to be
forgiven who does not want forgiveness, that would mean declaring him literally incapable
of assuming responsibility of himself.
If we realize that perfectly consummated
human guilt finally means a decision against God, and ultimately against Him alone, then
it will suddenly dawn on us that mans sin despite his contrition and
confession of guilt can really only be extinguished by one act, by one act alone:
the gift of forgiveness freely bestowed on us by God himself."
Josef Piefer (1904-1997) was a German Catholic philosopher, at the forefront of
the Neo-Thomistic wave in twentieth century Catholic philosophy.
Among his most notable works are The Four Cardinal Virtues,
Leisure, the Basis of Culture, The Philosophical Act,
and Guide to Thomas Aquinas
Bestowing forgiveness to someone is an act which mimics
God's gracious and eternal gift to mankind.
If I do not forgive those who hurt me, remorse will hang heavy on
my conscience until I do. It
will encompass my life and corrode my faith unless I make things right. I can only be liberated by giving
clemency, or I will continue to feel that sense of isolation from
my heavenly Father. It is an action that will
conceivably change the wrongdoer into a person who will try to avoid
such behavior in the future. By offering leniency, it allows one
to sometimes see and truly appreciate the real person
behind the action because it is a unity of God's presence at
that moment; a joining of one forgiving soul to the other.
let us also always be aware that we are not God, and cannot forgive
as God forgives. We do not see the other truly and completely.
There are hurts that we are not able, either individually or
communally, to get around or grow past – to forgive or accept
forgiveness for. And it is precisely in this humble
condition of inadequacy and failure and even sin that we most truly
implore the merciful God to forgive us, so that we might someday
approach forgiving others as, we trust, God now already forgives
them." - Anon
An offense against others shows the momentary darkness of the offender's soul. If I am the wrongdoer through words or deeds, I must complete the act of
asking for forgiveness, and by
restitution if necessary, and making peace with our Lord through confession.
The greatest example of forgiveness comes from
Jesus Christ when He was nailed to the cross. Luke 23:33-34
"And when they were come to the place which is called Calvary, they
crucified Him there; and two robbers, one on the right hand, and the
other on the left." It was from that cross Jesus said the powerful words: "Father,
forgive them, for they know not what they do."
He looked down through the ages and saw you, and you, and me as we
sin day after day, and He gave us the legacy of forgiveness for sin
by His sacrifice. As He was dying He said, "It is finished",
had accomplished the work God sent Him to do for us. The heavenly manifestation of forgiveness was complete.
Over 2,000 years later this
forgiveness is still valid. We, through faith, can repent of sin
and receive with forgiveness
gift of all... Eternal Life.
"For He has rescued us
from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into
the kingdom of His dear Son, Who purchased our freedom
and forgave our sins/" - Colossians:1:14
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