Forgiveness. It’s a very important concept, and certainly one of the planks in Christ’s platform for holiness and salvation. Let’s think about it today.
Our Lord tells us the parable of two men, each of whom owed some money. One of them owed NINE MILLION DOLLARS (Jesus often used hyperbole to make a point), and couldn’t pay it, so his master who was also his creditor totally forgave him the debt.
Then, he went out and found a fellow servant who owed him FIFTEEN DOLLARS, and he wouldn’t forgive him, but sent him to debtor’s prison until the debt was paid. When the master found out about this, he was furious, and retracted his cancellation of the huge debt and now demanded payment of the entire amount. How in the world would that servant ever have repaid nine million dollars? Then, when Jesus taught us the Our Father, he included in it the petition: forgive us our trespasses AS WE FORGIVE those who trespass against us. We better listen to what we are saying! Those words and their meaning could send us to heaven or to hell.
Once I read an article on the origin of social customs, in which the author was discussing the custom of shaking hands when we meet someone. Why do we in the west do that? The orientals — Chinese, Japanese, Indians, etc., don’t shake hands. According to what I read, it comes from the ancient European practice of shaking hands to let the other person know that you are not concealing a knife or any other dangerous weapon in your hand. That is, that you are not his enemy; you are not plotting injury toward him; you are a peaceful person without guile.
The bearing of a grudge is like carrying a mental and emotional weapon in your hand. You hold something against your adversary; you will not let go that weapon, and at any time, you might use it against him. You cannot be truly a peacemaker if you bear grudges. And Jesus tells us, “Blessed are the peacemakers; they shall be called children of God.” First, let us beat our weapons into plowshares with which to till the soil and our spears into pruning hooks with which to trim our grapevines. That is, let us turn our hostilities and animosities into means for doing good. This is what Our Lord asks of us. His kingdom is founded upon peace, which in turn requires forgiveness. We cannot be truly at peace with one whom we don’t truly forgive. That doesn’t mean that we may not be cautious against those of bad faith, or be prepared to defend ourselves. But it does mean that we must never strike the first blow out of malice. We must be men and women of peace, and that requires forgiveness. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.