“Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him?"
Today's Gospel deals with an issue we all experience in our lives because we are broken and scarred by sin. We all want perfect relationships, we seek love, communion and friendship by nature because these things are affirming and give life. The problems occur because sometimes we claim these goods on our terms only and refuse to consider any other perspective.
Of course, it's hard to forgive someone if they aren't sorry too.
The Gospel message seeks to change us; to change our hearts. Proximity to Christ, to the Sacraments, also facilitates grace which changes us ontologically and opens our lives to change and forgiveness. Afterall, if Heaven means perfect Communion, how can we be fit for Heaven if we still harbour resentment and bitterness in our own hearts?
Part of the process relies on self knowledge. γνῶθι σεαυτόνis--know thyself--is one of the Delphic maxims inscribed in the pronaos (forecourt) of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. In a Catholic context we work toward this through self examination and contrition. It is this self-understanding and acknowledgement of our need of assistance (grace) in order to prepare ourselves for Heaven that form the conduit for us to be merciful in turn, just as the Gospel today teaches us.
The First Reading entreats us to bear the correct disposition for this, and recalls the constant theme of the Old Testament with regard to Worship: The Lord does not want empty words and lip-service. Our Worship must be authentic and from the heart:
But may the contrite soul, the humbled spirit be as acceptable to youIt is in recognition of our proper place before almighty God that we begin to understand and gain Wisdom. This can not be an over accentuation of mercy. The mercy comes, yes, and God abounds in mercy, but an essential dimension of that mercy is His justice. Humility before that Justice brings forth His mercy, just as the Master in the Gospel forgives the servant.
as holocausts of rams and bullocks,
as thousands of fattened lambs:
such let our sacrifice be to you today,
and may it be your will that we follow you wholeheartedly,
since those who put their trust in you will not be disappointed.
And now we put our whole heart into following you,
into fearing you and seeking your face once more.
Are we so excited about the proclamation of the Kingdom that we have we forgotten the call to conversion? Jesus says "Repent and believe the Good News", let us pray that these words of Jesus' public ministry may be heard by all who dwell in sin. May we know that the Lord calls us to conversion, and may we experience life-giving repentance!