Is it easy to forgive?

by Shiu Lan

This week’s Mass readings reminds us that we must forgive our neighbours for any wrongs that they have done to us in order that God, likewise, will forgive our wrongdoings.

In the first reading, the book of Sirach teaches us in plain language, “Forgive your neighbour the wrong that is done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray” (Sirach 28:2).

In the gospel reading, Jesus teaches us with a parable that we must “forgive [our] brother or sister from [our] heart” (Mt 18:35). There is a slave who is unable to pay his master the 10,000 talents that he owes him. The master orders him to be sold together with his wife and children, and all his possessions, so that his debt can be paid. Upon his pleading, the master releases him and forgives his debt. Yet when this slave meets his fellow slave who owes him 100 denarii and unable to pay, he throws him in prison until he pays the debt. The 10,000 talents he owes his master is impossible to pay as it is equivalent to 6,000 denarii or 20 years of wages for a labourer; 100 denarii is but about 100 days’ of wages which is a more realistic amount to be repaid (Ref 21-35, Ignatius Catholic Study Bible 40). When the slave’s action is reported to the master, he summons the slave and asks him, “Should you not have mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?” (33). In anger, the master orders the slave to be tortured until he pays off his entire debt. In the parable, Jesus highlights the master’s mercy in forgiving the slave owing an enormous debt and the slave’s folly in refusing to forgive the fellow slave’s small debt.

St. Paul proclaims in the second reading that “Whether we live, or whether we die, we are the Lord’s”, having been purchased with the price of his blood (Rm 14:8, Ref. ICSB 278). One day, “… we shall all stand before the judgement seat of God … each of us shall give account of himself to God” (10-12). If we do not forgive others, then like the merciless slave in Jesus’ parable, we might face the grave consequence of our own sins not being forgiven in eternal life.

Is it easy to forgive? The Church knows our weakness. When we find it difficult or impossible to forgive, let us pray to the Holy Spirit for “it is not in our power not to feel or forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession” (CCC 2843). Amen.