Thursday Reflection: How often should I forgive, Lord ?

Thursday thoughts and food      9/14 2017.


Opening prayer:

Our heavenly Father of light and grace.

When our hearts are hard, break the stone away.

When our hearts are cold, warm it with the light of the day.

When our hearts are lost, lead it on Your way.

Let our hearts be warm, forgiving and loving. Amen


First reading and reflection Genesis 50.15-21

Joseph Forgives His Brothers

15 Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said, “What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?” 16 So they approached[b] Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this instruction before he died, 17 ‘Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.’ Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 Then his brothers also wept,[c] fell down before him, and said, “We are here as your slaves.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? 20 Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. 21 So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.” In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.


Why is forgiveness so hard? Some of us tonight may be struggling with the idea of forgiving someone who has hurt us deeply. Some of us may carry wounds that are decades old and just doesn’t seem to heal. Still others of us may have done things of which we are terribly ashamed of and not proud of, and cannot imagine that there would be any forgiveness to find.

The story of Joseph and his brothers from Genesis is a moving episode that speaks to the power of forgiveness. When Joseph was a young boy, a dreamer, the favorite child of his father, the one that all the brothers despised, the one who had the golden spoon – the dramatic story tells us that Josephs brothers kidnapped him, threw him into a well and sold him into slavery. And now after so many years, Joseph finally stands before his brothers, remembering all the evil they committed against him. The drama is on! The suspense builds and there is tension in the air.

Finally. Finally, he gets his shot at revenge.

But it does not come. Joseph weeps as his brothers beg for forgiveness despite all the years of pain and suffering. Revenge does not come. Instead reconciliation and forgiveness speaks and shows. When forgiveness speaks rather than revenge, there is a release and a liberation. It can be almost therapeutic. The story of Joseph is a reminder that forgiveness lifts the burdens we carry, whether that is the brothers guilt and Josephs grievance.

“Holding a grudge doesn’t make you strong. It makes you bitter. Forgiving doesn’t make you weak. It sets you free.”

Second reading Matthew 18.21-22

Peter came and said to Jesus: “Lord, If another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive ? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him:” Not seven times, but I tell you, seventy-seven times.”

How many times should I forgive…. This question of Peter may echo in many of our hearts, when we are hurt, broken, mistreated, and even abused. How many times should I forgive?

Peter is counting and setting up boundaries and rules for forgiving. Peter liked to do that: counting and setting boundaries and rules, and so do we. There must be a limit! Should we forgive 7 times, - and that’s TOPS ? No, Jesus says not only 7 times bud 77 times or as the old translation of the Bible says Seventy times seven! Jesus certainly as it is often the case doesn’t let us off the hook easily.

There must be no boundaries of limits to our forgiveness, Jesus says to Peter and to us. We cannot just mark 7, 77, or 70 times 7 = 490 times for forgiveness and then be done! No, there must be no boundaries or limits to our forgiveness. We are commanded to forgive endlessly.

When we are hurt, we let that hurt be like a stone in our heart. We might use these stones to build a wall around ourselves and our feelings, or we might use these stones to throw at others. But when we forgive, we let the stones fall: with forgiveness, we resist to build a wall of bitterness, revenge, or fear around us and with forgiveness we let go of the stones in our hands to throw at others like piercing words, ignorance, or hatred. Instead of letting the stones or hurt become a burden to carry, we should drop the stones.

It takes a strong person to say sorry and an even stronger person to forgive. Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does change the future.