17 August, 2017: Forgiveness: a Right and a Duty

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Thursday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading 1: Jos. 3 – 10.a, 11, 13 – 17; Gospel: Mt. 18. 21 – 19.1.

In Jewish numerology, 7 is a perfect number. Peter is ready to forgive 7 times: a generous offer… a perfection in forgiveness. Let us not look down upon Peter. This generous offer from a community that has been raised by a rule that states: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, is indeed a great thing. Finally, Jesus was getting into Peter’s head. We can’t really call Jesus a failed teacher as some would observe.
But, Jesus widens the scope of perfection: “Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect.” Let forgiveness be part of your bio-system as real and important as the air you breath… forgive every moment of your life.
This is where it becomes ‘preachy’. Forgiveness doesn’t come so easily. I know it and there are many I need to forgive and many I have offended, who needs to forgive me. But, it is not impossible. Human as we are and imperfect that we are, we tend to upset people and get upset by others. First and foremost, we have to realize that there isn’t any harm that somebody has done to us that we haven’t returned in some way or the other. It may not be of the same intensity. But, our minds are such that we can take even the slightest thing to be very serious. So as to say, a matchstick can cause a wildfire in some minds. Because, that forest was dry and it was summer. Therefore, however difficult or impossible it might seem, forgiveness is the right of your neighbour and it is at the same time your duty to your neighbour. And Jesus taught us to pray: forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
However, I don’t take it any further to say, ‘forgive and forget’. That is the impossible thing. Forgiveness is possible, but to forget, you need to have amnesia. These are lessons learned and these lessons are not to be forgotten. Only we have to take care that we don’t stereotype people basing on the lessons learned, like in a psychology course. For we don’t know when people change and sometimes so drastically. Forgiveness implies giving a second chance. And if we have to go by today’s gospel, not just a second chance, but umpteen number of chances.
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