Ruth Anne Henderson - Forgiveness

The Power of Forgiveness

HOMILY ON WORD.OP.ORG  17.08.2017

Matthew 18:21-19:1

21 Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.
23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 25 and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26 So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 31 When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32 Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35 So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister[e] from your heart.”
19 When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan.

Most of this passage is a rather ferocious parable – which appears only in Matthew – and I am not going to comment on that. Thinking about the first two verses is enough to give us something to reflect on.

For a start, different translations give different numbers of times that Jesus tells Peter he should forgive: some say seventy-seven times, others say seventy times seven. Either way, it’s a staggeringly high number, and obviously it means that we should never give up on forgiving. It’s not a case of keeping a careful count and saying “Oh good, this is the seventy-eighth time (or the four hundred and ninety-first!), so I’ve done all I have to and now I can be as vindictive as I like”. But something else occurred to me: sometimes we forgive someone for offending or hurting or damaging us in some way – we say, and we even believe, that we have really, definitively forgiven them, but next day (or next week, or next year) we find ourselves still resenting the offence, so we have to forgive all over again. And again and again and again. Only God himself is generous enough to forgive once and for all, in the most literal sense.

And this led me to realise something else: forgiving is obviously to the benefit of the offender, but it’s crucial for the person offended as well. Do you remember when you were maybe seven, eight, nine years old, and you fell and made your knee or your elbow or some other part of your anatomy bleed? And you were pleased to have a bandage and hear people say “Oh dear, what happened, what have you done to yourself?” And then as the wound healed it formed a protective crust, a scab, and you picked it off and made it bleed again, and your mum kept telling you to leave it alone but you didn’t. (Go on, admit it, you know you did this!) And why did your mum tell you not to keep interfering with the wound? – because an open wound means the risk of infection, so you may make matters worse instead of better.

Well, you can see where I’m going with this, can’t you? When I fail to forgive, all I’m doing is keeping the wound open, and so risking a sort of spiritual infection. So forgiving is good for me as the offended party, and not just for the offender.

Forgiveness heals. And when we forgive “from the heart”, as Jesus says at the end of the parable, the healing process is complete, for the sinner and for the victim of the sin.  It’s worth making the effort, seventy-seven times – or seventy times seven.

The Power of Forgivenesshttp://www.fraternitiesop.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Ruth-Anne-Henderson.jpghttp://www.fraternitiesop.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Ruth-Anne-Henderson-150x150.jpgRuth Anne HendersonEnglishSliderSpirituality,,
HOMILY ON WORD.OP.ORG  17.08.2017 Matthew 18:21-19:1 21 Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. 23 “For this reason the kingdom of...
HOMILY ON <a href="http://word.op.org/2017/08/17/the-power-of-forgiveness/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">WORD.OP.ORG  17.08.2017</a> <em>Matthew 18:21-19:1</em> <strong><em>21 </em></strong><em>Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” </em><strong><em>22 </em></strong><em>Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. </em><strong><em>23 </em></strong><em>“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. </em><strong><em>24 </em></strong><em>When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; </em><strong><em>25 </em></strong><em>and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. </em><strong><em>26 </em></strong><em>So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ </em><strong><em>27 </em></strong><em>And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. </em><strong><em>28 </em></strong><em>But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ </em><strong><em>29 </em></strong><em>Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ </em><strong><em>30 </em></strong><em>But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. </em><strong><em>31 </em></strong><em>When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. </em><strong><em>32 </em></strong><em>Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. </em><strong><em>33 </em></strong><em>Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ </em><strong><em>34 </em></strong><em>And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. </em><strong><em>35 </em></strong><em>So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister</em><em>[e]</em><em> from your heart.” </em><strong><em>19 </em></strong><em>When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan.</em> Most of this passage is a rather ferocious parable – which appears only in Matthew – and I am not going to comment on that. Thinking about the first two verses is enough to give us something to reflect on. For a start, different translations give different numbers of times that Jesus tells Peter he should forgive: some say seventy-seven times, others say seventy times seven. Either way, it’s a staggeringly high number, and obviously it means that we should never give up on forgiving. It’s not a case of keeping a careful count and saying “Oh good, this is the seventy-eighth time (or the four hundred and ninety-first!), so I’ve done all I have to and now I can be as vindictive as I like”. But something else occurred to me: sometimes we forgive someone for offending or hurting or damaging us in some way – we say, and we even believe, that we have really, definitively forgiven them, but next day (or next week, or next year) we find ourselves still resenting the offence, so we have to forgive all over again. And again and again and again. Only God himself is generous enough to forgive once and for all, in the most literal sense. And this led me to realise something else: forgiving is obviously to the benefit of the offender, but it’s crucial for the person offended as well. Do you remember when you were maybe seven, eight, nine years old, and you fell and made your knee or your elbow or some other part of your anatomy bleed? And you were pleased to have a bandage and hear people say “Oh dear, what happened, what have you done to yourself?” And then as the wound healed it formed a protective crust, a scab, and you picked it off and made it bleed again, and your mum kept telling you to leave it alone but you didn’t. (Go on, admit it, you know you did this!) And why did your mum tell you not to keep interfering with the wound? – because an open wound means the risk of infection, so you may make matters worse instead of better. Well, you can see where I’m going with this, can’t you? When I fail to forgive, all I’m doing is keeping the wound open, and so risking a sort of spiritual infection. So forgiving is good for me as the offended party, and not just for the offender. Forgiveness heals. And when we forgive “from the heart”, as Jesus says at the end of the parable, the healing process is complete, for the sinner and for the victim of the sin.  It’s worth making the effort, seventy-seven times – or seventy times seven.

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