|To be forgiven, you must forgive|
For fun we ask the question, “What would you do if you won the lottery?” Then we let our imaginations run wild. I would pay off my debts, buy a new house, cover all my children’s debts, open up a tutoring center in the inner city, and so on. Winning the lottery is equivalent to getting an infinite amount of money.
Today, Jesus reminds us that each of us has won the lottery. He tells us what he expects us to do with our winnings (Matthew 18:21-35).
“Peter approached Jesus and asked him, ‘Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.’”
Peter had won the lottery. He had been hand-picked to follow Jesus and experience the wonders of God’s love. In time he would be gifted with an extraordinary leadership position in the Church and help begin God’s greatest work on this earth. Peter would head an organization whose task was to release God’s mercy to as many people as they could find. Truly he had won a spiritual lottery!
Suggesting that he forgive his brother seven times, Peter was catching on to the generosity of God. Even so he thought in terms of limits. Maybe extending forgiveness seven times would please God. Jesus, in effect, said “No limits, Peter; let forgiveness flow out of you seventy-seven times seven.” In other words, forgive so many times that you can’t even keep count, even if the forgiveness is directed to the same person.
Jesus elaborated on his teaching with a parable. A wealthy king decided to settle accounts with his servants.
“When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought to him who owed him a huge amount. Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold…in payment of his debt. At that the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me and I will pay you back in full.’ Moved with compassion, the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.”
The servant had taken advantage of the king by borrowing money over and over again to the point that he was so deep in debt he could never pay it back. In asking for patience and “more time,” the servant was kidding both himself and the king. No extension of time would empower him to pay off the debt. There were only two solutions to the problem: either he and his property be sold, or the unthinkable—the king forgive him. The overly generous king chose the latter. This indebted servant won the lottery!
We know the rest of the story. The servant searched out a fellow servant who owed him a small sum of money and refused to forgive him even a penny. Demanding justice, he tossed his fellow servant in prison. When the king heard about this, he reversed his decision, and handed over the ungrateful servant to the torturers.
“So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”
When we were baptized we won the lottery of forgiveness. Each time we sin and ask forgiveness from God, we win even more. Now, what does God expect us to do with our winnings? We expect God to forgive us when we leave this world. Do we like todays Gospel forgive others, around us?????
“Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart; for I am gracious and merciful” (Joel 2:12-13).