Read Joshua 3:7-11,13-17, Ps. 114:1-6, Matthew 18:21-19:1

“Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.’” (Matthew 18:21-22)

In our Gospel passage yesterday, Jesus outlined four steps to take when offended. 1. Meet the person and seek to win them back. 2. If this fails, invite at least two witlessness. 3. If reconciliation fails, tell it to the church. 4. If this fails, consider the person a stranger to the faith, that is, one who needs conversion and praying for the person.

Peter listened carefully to Jesus. (Peter took out a sword on the night of Jesus’ arrest to fight with the soldiers). After listening to Jesus, Peter asked a very honest question: “How often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive?” For Peter, “seven times” is extraordinary.

If proper statistics are taken, it would reveal that the answer to this question for most of us is zero. We do not even bother to count. When we feel offended, we rush to retaliate, end the relationship (business agreement, marriage, contract etc.) or bottle everything up – waiting for the right time to strike back.

In response to Peter’s question, Jesus mentioned the fifth and final step: “Consider how much God has forgiven you; then forgive the person.” To drive home this point, Jesus gave a parable of a servant whose debt was forgiven by his master but refused to forgive his fellow servant who owed him less. Jesus wants us to understand that regardless of how much people offend us, it does not equal what we owe God.

Many Christians do not believe that they owe God anything. We like to think of ourselves as perfect creatures incapable of inflicting pain on others. We are psychologically wired to see the specks (the offences) in other people’s eyes, but we cannot see the logs in our eyes. If only we truly examine our conscience and see how much dirt we have, forgiving would be easier.

Are you angry with someone? Do you feel like ripping them apart? Does their memory make food lose taste in your mouth? You feel this way because of your self-righteousness. You consider yourself better than them. You are not better than them. You may have done worse things to others without even knowing it. You may have caused greater pain to God. Even if you are a saint (sinless and spotless), you can still forgive. After all, what makes you saintly if you cannot forgive? What if God allowed them to offend you just to test you?

Forgiveness is hard, but it is possible. It is like crossing a river on foot. In today’s First Reading, God instructs Joshua on how the Israelites were to cross the River Jordan. Joshua told the people: “…this is how you will know that there is a living God in your midst…” Let us go on our knees daily to ask God for the grace to do the impossible – that is, to forgive others (to free them from the prisons of hate within our hearts). This is our way of crossing the River Jordan to the land flowing with milk and honey (that is, peace of mind)

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, increase my faith that I may learn to forgive and forget. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Thursday of week 19 in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: Joshua 3:7-11,13-17, Ps. 114:1-6, Matthew 18:21-19:1).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu