Tuesday of the 3rd Week of Lent
Deu 3:25, 34-43
“Lord if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him?”
These days, I find parenting my two children such a challenge. I am being pulled in all directions and, often – unjustly – my older child suffers for it. He bears the brunt when my temper is short. I forget that he is a child sometimes and things move at different speeds in their world. But my son also has the biggest heart. Somehow, he seems to understand when I am having a tough day. And when I put him to bed and kiss him goodnight, he will hug me even though I might have lost my temper with him earlier in the evening. One day he told me, “Mummy, even though you are angry with me, I will still love you.” That filled me with guilt and love at the same time. How can a small child understand forgiveness and unconditional love when I, an adult, cannot? To reaffirm his position, my son then assured me that I was still his “best friend”. That is not just forgiveness, that is reconciliation as well. And I totally failed that test.
Peter asked Jesus in today’s Gospel reading how often he had to forgive someone who had sinned against him. Jesus’ reply was “not seven times, but seventy-seven times”. In the context of today’s reading, that basically means we don’t stop forgiving. The Oxford definition of forgive means to “stop feeling angry or resentful towards (someone) for an offence, flaw, or mistake”. We hear the saying, “forgive and forget” – if I am being honest, it is hard to forgive when someone has wronged you, let alone forget. But that is what God wants us to do – to forgive.
In the Lord’s Prayer, there is the line “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Put simply, we cannot expect to ask God to forgive us if we do not forgive others their offences against us. Jesus emphasizes this point with the story of the Unforgiving Servant, where the servant is forgiven by the king but then, does not show forgiveness to the other servant who owed him a debt. The unforgiving servant is later punished by the king for not showing mercy himself.
Forgiveness also reconciles us to God. Not just forgiveness for our sins, which might have put a wedge between us and God, but also forgiveness to others. If we approach God with the weight of resentment towards another, we are not at ease in our relationship with God. We bring ‘baggage’ with us that prevents our cup from being filled till it runs over. That’s not to say that we are expected to be super humans and not feel upset or anger, only that we leave it at the door before we approach God. Matthew 5:23-24 says, “If you are offering a gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Leave the weight behind and restore your relationship with Him.
In closing, perhaps we can refer to an earlier verse from Matthew 18:3, that unless we change and become like little children, we will never enter the kingdom of Heaven. Maybe that is the clue there, in how we need to approach forgiveness – be like a child. Be forgiving like a child, whose only intention is reconciliation and a happy relationship with those around him. If we see more through their eyes, perhaps ‘sorry’ would not be such a hard word.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)
Prayer: Lord, we pray for the humility and ability to lay down our resentments, anger and the weight of sin, by giving and asking for mercy and forgiveness.
Thanksgiving: Lord, we thank you for your unconditional love and mercy, for taking us back even though we have sinned.