77 Times

Fr. John did a helpful thing before mass – he mentioned that the Gospel message was about forgiving “Not 7 times but 77 times”. I am supposed to see the thread from First Reading, Second Reading, and the Gospel but that was such a great thing — to not have to make me look for the thread, but instead to show it to me and place it right in my hand. I do realized I get the most of the mass’s message when I pre-read the Gospel. But today was nice because I hadn’t done that and I was given the thread.

In listening to today’s Gospel I was thinking about Purgatory and how different Christian religions do or don’t believe in it. And I was thinking about those who aren’t all that religious and so under-worry about Judgment Day –thinking “God is love. Surely when I meet Him He will let me into heaven.”

So it was this last audience of semi-believing non-worriers that I want to focus on. If you think you are “safe” from judgment because you thought Jesus was a “nice guy” and so God will also be a “nice guy” this Bible passage should make you reconsider.

At first it looks like there is no Purgatory — when you die just ask God’s forgiveness and you get straight into heaven. Easy-peasy.  Mt 18:27 “Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him”

All seems nice and good. But oh, you must read on. If you think you will be forgiven you are right. God will forgive you. HOWEVER, it is going to depend on YOU! It depends on how good of a job YOU do at forgiving OTHERS.

Ouch that is hard. You’ve likely had it pounded down your throat you must forgive others — and love your neighbor as yourself. Well this Gospel passage is a clear reason why.

Should you not forgive you are in for a rough time. If you seek God’s forgiveness yet fail to forgive others it is as if you refuse your fellow servant’s pleas to ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back’ and if you have him put in prison until he pays back the debt (Mt 18:29-30) well you condemn YOURSELF.

God wants us to forgive others. He says, “Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you? (Mt 18: 33). That’s it. Right there. Forgive others plain and simple. And yes I know that life is messy and not plain and simple and forgiveness can be hard. But that is how important God and Heaven are! You need to do the seemingly impossible thing because God is so great that He deserves all of your best efforts of striving to do what He asks.

God doesn’t want you just to show up thinking you will walk right into His Kingdom without making an effort to try to build His Kingdom and prepare for His Kingdom while on earth.

God makes this very clear to us. Listen to Jesus’ words here to see how incredibly important this is! Jesus says, “Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.” (Mt 18: 34-35)

  1. If you aren’t in a perfect state you will not enter God’s Kingdom. You need to purge the blemishes of sin from your soul (ie. spend some time in Purgatory; prepare your soul) in order to be worthy of sharing in God’s presence.
  2. You will not be in a perfect state if you do not forgive others. Hold onto “debts” and the other’s debt becomes your own.
  3. You may think you are all set because God is willing to forgive you. But you are mistaken. In order to be capable of receiving that forgiveness God freely offers you then you need to forgive others first.

Oh also, it doesn’t matter how many debts that one person has towards you. You are to forgive them an infinite amount. This is also a critical point in understanding God’s love, power, and forgiveness and the incomprehensibleness of the glory of His Kingdom.

Are you worthy of it? Have you forgiven others? 

Do not wait to arrive at the gates of God’s Heavenly Kingdom to learn the importance of forgiveness! Do it now! This is your “additional time” that you have to ask God to be patient with you. Work to pay Him back in full starting today. Strive to forgive every single debt of others so that when you do arrive at your judgment you will not be a debtor owing a huge amount, but instead you will be more prepared to join God in the glory of His Kingdom.

Pray to God for the grace to forgive others – to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” and “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Mt 6:12). 

Lord, I am not worthy to receive you. But in your loving mercy forgive me my sins and heal my soul. Amen. 

Gospel MT 18:21-35

Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began the accounting,
a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
Since he had no way of paying it back,
his master ordered him to be sold,
along with his wife, his children, and all his property,
in payment of the debt.
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’
Moved with compassion the master of that servant
let him go and forgave him the loan.
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants
who owed him a much smaller amount.
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding,
‘Pay back what you owe.’
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
But he refused.
Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison
until he paid back the debt.
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened,
they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master
and reported the whole affair.
His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?’
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”

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