We know that love is patient and kind and forgiving. We know that love is the whole law.
But in certain circumstances, we find love difficult. Especially when it comes to forgiving some offenses, some people who do not seem to deserve our forgiveness. In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us a “secret” to forming a forgiving heart: we must see and acknowledge our own immense failings so that we can begin to understand the generous forgiveness that God extends to us. Once we are convicted of our own poverty and the deep darkness we experience without God’s grace, we see how much God has given us, and our hearts are enlivened anew and determined to extend mercy to others.
The Rabbinic teaching at this time was to forgive someone three times, so Peter was undoubtedly expressing something magnanimous by suggesting SEVEN times – more than twice as many! And Jesus says even this is not enough. We can never weary of forgiving others because we ourselves will never run out of reasons to be forgiven by God!
Jesus wanted us to be absolutely sure of his forgiveness, and so he made it audible in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Have we encountered the mercy of God in this sacrament this Lent? We come in humility to speak our weakness and woundedness to Jesus through the priest, and Jesus reaches down to us through that priest to make sure we know clearly that we are forgiven. Through the mouth of the priest, we hear the words of Jesus: “I absolve you from your sins…”, and we can rise up to try again. What a gift!
During this Lenten season, many of us have been given the opportunity to slow down and remain at home, away from our usual activities and events and routines, by the need for “social distancing.” This is not easy, but one way we can use this time is for more prayer, more self-examination, more spiritual reading, and a reflective re-prioritization of our usual activities.
One area to reflect upon, in light of this Gospel, is where we may be harboring a lack of forgiveness. What do I need to “let go of” in order to be free to love fully? What person irritates me or continues to act in hurtful ways? A good resolution is to pray for that person each time you feel the irritation. It can be as simple as, “Lord, I lay that situation at the foot of your Cross. Give me peace.” Then, let go of it; untangle the fibers of your heart and mind from that person or situation, so that you are freed for other things! There is no magic in this practice, but the Lord never fails to meet us more than halfway. If we resolve to move toward Him in this way, He will do the rest. And by Easter, our hearts will be more ready to encounter the Paschal Mystery.
Meanwhile, let us all pray for health and peace!
Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including newly ordained Father Rob and seminarian Luke ;-), and two grandchildren. She is a Secular Discalced Carmelite and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 25 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio, by publishing and speaking, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Catechesis, various parishes, and other ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is https://www.kathryntherese.com/.