Once upon a time, two good friends set out on a long journey through the desert. On the way, an argument starts between them. One of them strikes the other in the face, and the one who gets the blow did not retaliate nor curse his friend. Instead, he bends down and writes in the sand: “today my best friend hit me in the face.”
After a period of silence, they decide to continue their journey. Later, the two friends come across a river and agree to swim and get some refreshment. The victim of their previous misunderstanding ventures into the deeper side of the river and was drowning and his friend who is a better swimmer, quickly helps him to get out.
Before they proceed on their journey, the one who received help from his friend gets a stone and carefully carves the following words: “today my best friend saved my life.”
At this point, the friend asks him why he wrote the incidence of hitting him on the sand and the gesture of rescuing him on a stone. The friend replies and says that we ought to write the deeds against us on sand so that the wind of forgiveness could blow them away but the good things we should write on a stone so that they stay with us forever.
The moral of this story is very clear; we should forgive and let go the wrongs done to us. However, in our day and age, people do the opposite. They prefer to write the good things on the sand and engrave the slightest offense on hard stones. Today, the Liturgy retains our attention on forgiveness; which is part of the lesson of the previous Sunday.
Before we proceed to reflect on the readings, it will be excellent if we understand the meaning of the word “FORGIVE.” The word is a combination of two words “FOR” and “GIVE” and comes from the Old English “forgiefan” which in turn is a combination of two words “FOR” (completely) and “GIEFAN” (give).
From the preceding, we understand that “to forgive” means “to give completely.” We shall have this “giving completely” at the back of our minds as we reflect on forgiveness in this message.
The First Reading today (Sirach 27:30-28:7) tells us among other things to forgive others so that when we pray our sins will be forgiven. Here we could see the law of retribution and the law of the seed sowing showing clearly. We get whatever we sow; we receive what we give; that means we cannot get what we do not give.
In the Gospel Reading (Matt. 18:21-35), our Lord uses a parable to provide more insight to Peter’s question: “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?” Peter must have tolerated a terrible brother for a while. Before relating the parable; our Lord tells Peter to forgive not just seven times but seventy-seven times.
“Seventy-seven times?” That could have been Peter’s response. Yes, seventy-seven times means that we should not count the number of times we forgive wrongs. It entails that we should write the wrong done to us on sand so that the ever-present wind of forgiveness could blow them away.
In the parable, which is also a kingdom parable, our Lord talks about the king (master) who FOR-GIVES (completely gives pardon, mercy, and love) his servant who owes him a lot of money. The servant in turn (after gaining his freedom) goes after another servant who owes him just a little. When the master learns about the act, he rearrests the servant and locks him up until he pays the debt he was asked not to pay earlier.
The parable leaves us with some lessons which at the same time answer the question that this reflection poses: ” Why should I for-give”. The servant lost his freedom because he goes out there to confront his fellow servant because of a little debt. He did not stop at physically abusing the one who owes him; he continues to put him in prison.
Back to our question “why should I for-give?”:
- I should for-give because God also forgives me whenever I sin. (Col.3:13).
- I should for-give because I also offend others consciously and unconsciously and even receive their forgiveness.
- I should for-give because it is part of our daily prayer to God: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matt. 6:12).
- I should forgive because it determines my forgiveness from God: “forgive, and you will be forgiven (Luke 6:37).
- I should for-give because it is what I do for myself in the long run.
As we enter the new week, let us be courageous enough to carry the flag of forgiveness and spread the message wherever we go. Remember to write the wrongs on sand and the good on stone.
Have a great week ahead.