The WORD in other words (2021) by Fr.Roderick C. Salazar, SVD (CKMS, Quezon City)
Thursday 19th Week in Ordinary Time / Gospel: Matthew 18:21–19:1
“God forgives … I Don’t” is the haughty title of a 1967 Spaghetti Western film. I have long forgotten how the story went, but not the title, catchy as it is.
Against this declaration is Your word today, dear Lord, that anyone who follows You and claims to be Your disciple must forgive – not seven times, but seventy-seven times. The other version of this text even says seventy times seven times, which is much more, very much more: 470 times if we multiply correctly. But 7 or 77 or 470, Bible experts tell us, are not meant to be exact numbers, beyond which one may no longer forgive, the quota for forgiving having been reached. No. The meaning of the text, and You want us to understand it in this way, is that we should not count the times we are to forgive our brother or sister. We just forgive. Every time. All the time.
This is not to say that this is easy. It is simply to say that it must be done. In the Our Father, which You taught Your disciples in Your time, and which we pray since then, we say “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” This means that in the same way that we forgive others, we ask that You, our God, forgive us. By implication, though we often do not think of it, if we do not forgive others, then we are asking You: do not forgive us, either. Which, I am sure, is farthest from our mind. We sin a lot. We err a lot. Countless times we forget or ignore You. And every time, all the time, we ask that You forgive us, that You do not count our failings against us. And You do. Forgive. Yet, we, with regard to others ….
I forgive, we often say, but I do not forget. And we think that by saying so, we have fulfilled Your Gospel command. We don’t. If purposely, we choose not to forget, then, in truth, we are not really forgiving or are not readying ourselves to forgive. We are, instead, continuing to fuel our anger, our resentment, our desire for revenge. But if recognizing the difficulty of forgiving, still bearing the pain of what has been done to me, I take the same difficulty and pain to You, for You to help me to forgive, then even if it takes time to erase an injury completely, it will happen: the forgiving, the healing. But in Your time. In Your way. And only by Your grace.
Lord God, You forgive. I do.