Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him?

Lord, forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;

Forgiveness: The Litmus Test
Dan 3:25, 34-43; Matt 18:21-35

Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him?
As many as seven times?” (Matt 18:21)

One of the most powerful stories of forgiveness unfolded in October 2006. A gunman, Charles Carl Roberts, entered a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. He killed five girls, ages six through thirteen, and critically wounded five others before taking his own life. What shocked the country and the world was not only the killings but also the fact that the Amish community immediately offered forgiveness. Before the sun set on that fateful Monday, October 2, a member of the Amish community went to the parents of the killer and offered condolences. The Amish community also reached out to Marie and her three children, the family of Charles Roberts.

Here is grace in action. Jesus came to reconcile all creation back to the Father and that ministry of redemption has been entrusted to us. The basic message is that since God has forgiven us more than seventy-seven times, we are not to withhold forgiveness from one another.

Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, OMI, offers this reflection of forgiveness: “In a world and a culture that is full of wounds, anger, injustice, inequality, historical privilege, jealousy, resentment, bitterness, murder, and war, we must speak always and every­where about forgiveness, reconciliation, and God’s healing. Forgiveness lies at the center of Jesus’ moral message. The litmus test for being a Christian is not whether one can say the creed and mean it, but whether one can forgive and love an enemy.”

Peter pondered the question of forgiveness by asking how often that grace must be extended to others. Jesus again uses a parable to demonstrate that God’s mercy is unlimited and that we, made in God’s image and likeness, are to emulate that quality. It is quite obvious that, given the deep pain of being hurt, only by the grace of God can we do what the Amish community did.

How often has God forgiven you? What do you understand by the Lord’s imperative that we are to forgive “from the heart?”

Lord Jesus, help us to be good instruments of your redemptive love. We find it so difficult to forgive; we find it so easy to harbor grudges and resentment. Send your Spirit into our world that we might cooperate with you to reestablish the unity you desire.

Not by Bread Alone, from Liturgical Press, is available in print, eBook, and App format.

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