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To Forgive: Letting Go of the Hurt
Gospel Reflection for Thursday, August 17, 2023
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.
That is why the Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began the accounting,
a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
Since he had no way of paying it back,
his master ordered him to be sold,
along with his wife, his children, and all his property,
in payment of the 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.
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants
who owed him a much smaller amount.
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding,
'Pay back what you owe.'
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,
'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.'
But he refused.
Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison
until he paid back the debt.
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened,
they were deeply disturbed,
and went to their master and reported the whole affair.
His master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant!
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?'
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart."
When Jesus finished these words, he left Galilee
and went to the district of Judea across the Jordan.
This is one of the hardest teachings of Jesus. How can we, as humans, forgive others in such an unlimited way? We will have arguments. We will be hurt. We know that our Lord tells us to “turn the other cheek” to one who even strikes us. Perhaps we could do that with enough self discipline, but how could we not be angered at the blow? Obviously, this is not humanly possible unless one became so accustomed to abuse that such offenses became expected and normal… and that is not healthy. What is Jesus teaching us?
Well, obviously, He is teaching us that through Christ all things are possible, even those things that surpass human ability. Beyond that, He is emphasizing peace and love, compassion and striving after virtue. He also says in a similar passage that we must be more righteous than the Jewish religious leaders who kept the Law to the letter. Our Lord gives us a new law, and that is to view all situations through the eyes of love. Love enables us to forgive. Love gives us compassion. If we exercise patience and step back from a situation we can see that the person who has hurt us is just as flawed as we are. We may be able to understand their motives if they are reasonable.
It is very important though, to remember that some people are intentionally cruel, abusive, sociopathic and criminal. We do not have to make ourselves victims. Jesus references “your brother.” Whether that is a brother by birth or a brother in Christ, that is a person who must follow the same teaching. Your brother should be one who wills good for you as you will good for him.
What do we do when our brother (or parent, spouse, etc) hurts us intentionally and repeatedly? What do we do when that person we love is so absolutely toxic and hurtful that we cannot be around them? Often, in such cases it is best to distance yourself. If you accept their abuse, you enable it…. And they sin when they abuse you, so you are aiding in their sin. While we may wish to fix every relationship and reconcile, sometimes we simply cannot. There is still one thing we must do though, and that is to forgive.
We may forgive those who hurt us without ever confronting them or even telling them. Forgiveness entails letting go of that hurt. If we come to a place where we can genuinely forgive the one who hurt us, we can recover. If we do not forgive the person, we allow hate and resentment to build within us. Every time we pray the Our Father, we ask God to forgive us as we forgive others. For our own good, we must learn to forgive and pray for those who hurt us as Jesus did on the Cross when He said, “Father, forgive them…” If we do not make an honest effort to forgive those who hurt us, we will have to answer to the “judge” and the penalty described by our Lord is a foundational verse for our understanding of Purgatory. As hard as it may be to forgive those who have really hurt us in ways from which we will never recover… really ruined years of our lives… and I have experienced that… we must. How awful would it be if we have to suffer in Purgatory due to the actions of another? We have the option of either compounding the harm they did to us or doing what Jesus asked. Just as we do not wish to seek revenge for fear of earthly arrest and jail, we cannot allow our hurt and anger to affect our souls.
Judson Carroll is the author of several books, including his newest, Confirmation, an Autobiography of Faith. It is Available in paperback on Amazon:
His new podcast is The Uncensored Catholic https://www.spreaker.com/show/the-uncensored-catholic