16 August, Thursday – What Does It Really Mean To Forgive?

16 August

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Ezekiel 12:1-12

The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows, ‘Son of man, you are living with that set of rebels who have eyes and never see, ears and never hear, for they are a set of rebels. You, son of man, pack an exile’s bundle and emigrate by daylight when they can see you, emigrate from where you are to somewhere else while they watch. Perhaps they will admit then that they are a set of rebels. You will pack your baggage like an exile’s bundle, by daylight, for them to see, and leave like an exile in the evening, making sure that they are looking. As they watch, make a hole in the wall, and go out through it. As they watch, you will shoulder your pack and go out into the dark; you will cover your face so that you cannot see the country, since I have made you a symbol for the House of Israel.’

I did as I had been told. I packed my baggage like an exile’s bundle, by daylight; and in the evening I made a hole through the wall with my hand. I went out into the dark and shouldered my pack as they watched.

The next morning the word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows, ‘Son of man, did not the House of Israel, did not that set of rebels, ask you what you were doing? Say, “The Lord says this: This oracle is directed against Jerusalem and the whole House of Israel wherever they are living.” Say, “I am a symbol for you; the thing I have done will be done to them; they will go into exile, into banishment.” Their ruler will shoulder his pack in the dark and go out through the wall; a hole will be made to let him out; he will cover his face rather than see the country.’

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Matthew 18:21-19:1

Peter went up to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times.

‘And so the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who decided to settle his accounts with his servants. When the reckoning began, they brought him a man who owed ten thousand talents; but he had no means of paying, so his master gave orders that he should be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, to meet the debt. At this, the servant threw himself down at his master’s feet. “Give me time” he said “and I will pay the whole sum.” And the servant’s master felt so sorry for him that he let him go and cancelled the debt. Now as this servant went out, he happened to meet a fellow servant who owed him one hundred denarii; and he seized him by the throat and began to throttle him. “Pay what you owe me” he said. His fellow servant fell at his feet and implored him, saying, “Give me time and I will pay you.” But the other would not agree; on the contrary, he had him thrown into prison till he should pay the debt. His fellow servants were deeply distressed when they saw what had happened, and they went to their master and reported the whole affair to him. Then the master sent for him. “You wicked servant,” he said “I cancelled all that debt of yours when you appealed to me. Were you not bound, then, to have pity on your fellow servant just as I had pity on you?” And in his anger the master handed him over to the torturers till he should pay all his debt. And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart.’

Jesus had now finished what he wanted to say, and he left Galilee and came into the part of Judaea which is on the far side of the Jordan.

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He let him go and cancelled the debt.

For a long time, I have struggled to forgive others who have hurt me, offended me, or those whose actions put me in a very disadvantageous position. I knew that things would never be the same as when before the offense had been committed. I could no longer be friends or be as affectionate to them as how I used to be, and I thought because I could not be as I was with them, I was unable to forgive.

The call to forgive has been viewed by some hurting Christians as a difficult yoke to carry. It also makes us feel guilty when we think we have not forgiven others. After all, many of us desire to make Jesus happy. I was in this situation until I came across Fr Mike Schmitz’s video on forgiveness. I realized that what was making my cross heavy was not that I was unable to forgive; it was because I didn’t know what forgiveness really meant. If we have to forgive seventy-seven times, shouldn’t we know what forgiveness really means?

When you forgive, does that mean you no longer feel hurt? Does it mean you can go back to the way you were as if nothing happened? Does it mean you don’t think the other person was wrong? The answer is no. Paraphrasing what Fr. Mike has said, to forgive means to cancel the debt. It means that you will not hold the person responsible for the pain, the disappointments, or the unfavorable circumstances you are experiencing as a result of the person’s action.

Forgiving someone is a decision, it’s an action and not just a feeling. We could still feel hurt, angry and disappointed, and we can choose to forgive at the same time. For me, it means being at peace and not requiring the person to make-up for what has been done to you; some of them are not in the disposition to do so.

Forgiving doesn’t mean that things have to go back to the way things are. In fact, it may be even be better to move away from that relationship to allow for healing and growth to take place. This is very difficult especially when the relationship is with your immediate family member like parents, siblings, etc. That’s why understanding that forgiving is all about cancelling debts helps one move forward.

I would imagine the king feeling disappointed and betrayed by the servant when he could not pay him back. I would think that the king felt this even though he felt pity towards the servant. Yet, his forgiving nature prevailed. I will not be surprised if he still felt hurt from the incident even after he had cancelled the servant’s debts.

When we forgive someone, we exercise patience over their shortcomings toward us. At the same time, let us exercise patience towards ourselves and allow ourselves to feel the pain and sorrow as we decide to cancel other’s debts.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, there are people who have hurt me and disappointed me. At times, your invitation to forgive is very difficult. Help me understand and know how to truly forgive so that the yoke I carry will not be heavier than it should.  

Thanksgiving: Thank you for trials and the tribulations as they help me grow in love and faith. And thank you, Lord, because I know that good will come out of this.  

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