Saturday, November 19, 2011

Seventy times Seven

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will 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-seven times. Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:21-35

There is real joy and real challenges when we live together as family. As Thanksgiving approaches, many people have heightened anxiety as they prepare to be with their families. Many of us have had very negative holidays experiences, where one family member or another has acted out, tearing at the fabric of the family. Some of us have joyous memories which can no longer be replicated as so many of the fun family members have passed on. Some fear the expectations that have crushed them in the past, others the lack of control on some siblings' parts. Whatever we are worried about with the holidays, guaranteed there will be lots of opportunity for forgiving and asking forgiveness.

Peter asks the obvious question of Jesus and Jesus answers that best forgive a "bazillion" times as the kids say. Really and truly, forgiveness is an essential task of our spiritual lives. We find our growth as we forgive and we deepen our relationship and dependence on our Creator as we seek to forgive and be forgiven. It is also one of the hardest tasks to fully accomplish, and comes only with a great measure of help from God. We humans stumble over each other, hurting each other, leaving scars everywhere. We can wake up in the morning still angry with someone who we had promised to forgive years ago. And we can suffer terribly when we are unforgiven or we hold on to the hate and anger that we thought we had let go of in times before. God promises mercy, overflowing mercy, if we will but offer mercy and forgiveness to one another.

Today I ask God for the strength to forgive, and the heart to always have mercy. As we prepare for the holidays I ask God to help me look forward and not back, asking, moment by moment for forgiveness and the courage to forgive those around me. May we all trust that God is pouring out an abundance of mercy and forgiveness today, and share the mercy we have received, so that others may know the face of God in their midst, even at the family table.

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