If we are honest with ourselves I think we would all have to admit that at some point in our lives we have felt anger or extreme dislike for another person. In our heart of hearts we confront a feeling that says, “I just don’t like that guy (or girl).” If that other person causes our feelings to be hurt, or if we perceive that he/ she has been the cause of our injury, then our unresolved feelings can change from simple dislike into a ticking time bomb of hostility. Some people say that if a king cobra snake is cornered, it can become so frenzied that it will accidently bite itself with its deadly fangs. Unresolved anger can lead to rage, and rage can kill.
Last Monday, we recalled the 16th anniversary of the terrorist attack in New York City which killed 2,977 people. Such a crime is called “monstrous,” meaning an outrageously evil and wicked action perpetrated against innocent people.
But even shocking actions like those call for forgiveness. I don’t say we must condone those actions, not at all! Jesus frequently spoke out against injustice, just like the prophets of the Old Covenant who spoke when prompted by God. So too we must we to work for justice. Remember last week’s Gospel when Ezekiel reminded us that God appointed us watchmen/ women, sentries, and guards. But Jesus also calls us to forgive; and in today’s gospel (Matthew 18:21-35) he demands that we forgive not just once, but 77 times if necessary! Buy, like Jesus on the Cross, we don’t have to wait for someone else to make the first move before we forgive.
Remember the promise of Jesus in today’s Gospel. (v. 35): if we do not forgive from our hearts, our heavenly Father will not forgive us when our moment of individual judgment comes.
The parable of the unforgiving servant ends with the sobering words of warning about our eternal risks: we will be treated the same way as we treat others when it comes to mercy. It’s not our power to feel or to forget an offence; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit can turn injury into compassion and purify the memory in changing the hurt into forgiveness0 even 77 times.