14 March, Tuesday – Are we capable of true forgiveness?

Tuesday of the 3rd Week of Lent

Dn 3:25,34-43

Mt 18:21-35

“And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart.”

Today’s parable of the unforgiving servant illustrates the importance of forgiveness and the consequences of holding onto grudges. When we refuse to forgive, we hold on to negative emotions that can consume us and cause us to act in ways that are harmful to ourselves and others. I believe that every one of us has had issues with forgiveness growing up. Sometimes, we are the ones needing forgiveness, and at times we are the ones needing to forgive. When I reflect on my past, especially from the teenage years to young adulthood, there were tons of occasions where I’d missed the opportunity to forgive, or to seek forgiveness. Numerous friendships were lost simply because of pride or obstinance by either one party, or both. At times, I would tell myself that it is not worth reminiscing over such regrets. But then again, there were times when I wondered how my life would have changed if those unpleasant situations had not happened.

In order to properly forgive others, do we really need to understand the concept of forgiveness? What does Jesus mean when he mentioned that we must forgive others “from the heart” in today’s gospel in Matthew 18:35? Jesus spoke of forgiveness “from the heart” in concluding his parable of the ungrateful servant, who did not forgive others as his king forgave him, hence his point was obviously that we must forgive as our God had forgiven us. This is in line with what he had taught us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer that we so often recite mindlessly. But what is true forgiveness? Are we forgiving because we truly want to? Or because it is what God expects of us and we are compelled to do so by our faith? To me, the latter seemed to be an obligation and duty as a Christian, rather than a genuine desire to forgive. Perhaps it was motivated by a fear of punishment, or a desire to gain divine favour.

Regardless of the underlying motive, forgiveness is a choice and involves personal free will to commit to it. It involves letting go of negative emotions and choosing to move forward, even if it is centred on religious expectations or self-focused reasons like personal well-being and peace of mind. As much as we try to be magnanimous and noble, not many of us can extend grace and mercy to those who have hurt us. Our love is imperfect and perhaps never capable of exceeding the levels of eros or phileo. Perhaps the imperfection also resulted in our limited capacity in forgiveness. Nonetheless, by bearing in mind the ill-effects of bearing grudges, we can still achieve our imperfect form of forgiveness. Even if we can’t sincerely understand from the aggressor’s point of view, consider the toxicity of resentment to our mental health, blood pressure and heart health. Even if our intent of forgiveness stems from reasons of self-care, it doesn’t negate the benefits of forgiveness. Ultimately, forgiveness does not mean forgetting or excusing the harm done to us, but it does mean choosing to let go of our desire for vengeance or justice.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Dylan Tan)

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, you have consummated the debt of our sins through your sacrifice on the cross. Grant us the strength to also forgive others, to excuse their transgressions against us. So that we may truly reflect this spiritual fruit and obliterate any persistent feelings of malice. Let each trespass end as a closing chapter, and forgive our sins as we aspire to forgive others. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for forgiving us and bringing us back into relationship with you. Thank you for sending Your Son to die on the cross to show us the true meaning of forgiveness. Help us to show that same forgiveness to others, so they can see You living in us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


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