Freeing Our Hearts

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

September 13, 2020 – Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 18:21-35

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Today’s gospel is about forgiveness and math. A popular saying in the time of Jesus was that we should forgive others up to seven times. (I wonder if people kept a record of this.) When Jesus was asked about this practice, he said that the number had changed. We need to multiply that seven times by seventy. Even with my limited math skills I can see that totals 490. Biblical scholars suggest that number implies that there should be no limit to our forgiving. Just keep doing it. Clearly, that’s far from easy.

Respected spiritual writer Father Ronald Rohheiser writes in his wonderful book, Sacred Fire: A Vision for a Deeper Human and Christian Maturity, that forgiveness is the most important spiritual act that we can do. He writes that “we need to forgive those who have hurt us, forgive ourselves for our own failings, forgive life for not being fully fair, and forgive God for seemingly being so indifferent to our wounds.” Forgiving frees us to find the peace of heart that God intends us to have.

In the gospel we are told the story of a man who, after having his own debt forgiven by someone he owed, turns around and fails to cancel a debt owed to him. So, despite having personally been forgiven, he will not forgive others. The deeper meaning here is that God forgives us our sins and failings repeatedly. We should do the same to others.

One of the most difficult places to forgive fully is in family life. Living close to each other in a family, we easily hurt each other’s feelings and ignore each other needs. Often, it’s just little things, but they can add up. And when we’re hurt by people we’re close to and care about, it can be very painful.

At Mass we request God’s forgiveness of us for what we have done and for what we have failed to do. In other words, sins of commission and sins of omission. This latter group of sins are all too common. And often unrecognized.

We all carry expectation of others in terms of what we would like them to do for us. Often, they fail to deliver. We can easily feel ignored or forgotten. It’s those people that we especially we need to forgive. Forgiving others creates in us what the gospels called “a clean heart.” I would add, a happier and more peaceful heart.

©David M. Thomas, PhD

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