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Monday, March 12, 2012

Sparkles of Light (Mt 18:21-35)

13 March 2012, Tuesday of 3rd Week of Lent


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 him 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 your brother from your heart."
Matthew 18:21-35

            The Gospel for today speaks about forgiveness.  Peter asked Jesus, "Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him?”  Jesus answered him with a figure, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”  This figure doesn’t indicate to us that we should only forgive 539 times.  No.  That is not the point Jesus is making.  Jesus emphasizes that when we forgive, we don’t count, but we forgive with our whole heart.  Hence, this parable of the unforgiving servant emphasizes this very important Christian quality which Jesus invites us to do to others especially those who have wronged, hurt, or indebted to us.

            When I was working in the New Bilibid Prisons as a rehabilitation officer, one of my main tasks was to help bridge or reunite my inmate-clients with their families as part of the transition for their release.  So I go to the houses of my inmate-clients and assist in the reconciliation phase between the inmate and their families.  Many families would open their doors to me and it brings me such joy to see families being united again with my inmate-clients.  However, there are also families who would send me away and they do not want their father, brother, or son to go back again into their lives.  And mind you it is so hard to be a bearer of such news to the inmates.  And this saddens me that even their own family, it is hard to forgive.  It even pains me because I witness how my inmate-clients have tried so hard to make that promise of a renewed and better life outside with their families.

            On the other hand, I could imagine how hard it must be also for the families to simply forgive their father, brother or son who have committed a crime and caused so much pain and burden for them.  In short, it is really hard to forgive.  So who could blame them, right?  Yet what I have learned from this experience is that forgiving is a process, even a very long process that could take up years or even a lifetime.  And forgiveness will take place when one opens his heart, even how small the opening is.  As long as your heart is open for reconciliation, forgiveness takes place.  And Jesus gave us a hint on how we should forgive through the parable.  When somebody asked for our forgiveness, we should remember our experiences when we were also forgiven by our family or friends.  We should forgive others as we were also forgiven.  And most of all, we must remember the one who truly forgives us – Our Father.  As the Father has forgiven us, loves us, so too we must try our very best to forgive and love others.

            In this season of Lent, may we strive to reach out those who have wronged or hurt us.  Eventhough it is difficult, yet gradually, one day at a time, we slowly open our hearts for them to enter again.  As an old saying goes, “No heart is small enough to love and forgive.” 

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