Today’s first reading contains one of the most beautiful prayers in all of Scripture. It is the prayer of Azariah from Daniel 3. Azariah and his two companions had been thrown into the fiery furnace by the king, because they prayed to the one true God. While in the furnace, this is the prayer that Azariah prayed. In it, he acknowledges the sins of his people, and begs God for mercy and forgiveness. PLEASE do not go through your day without reading this beautiful prayer. In our Gospel reading, Peter asks Jesus how many times he has to forgive a brother who sins against him. “As many as seven times?”
Hopefully you know Jesus’ response. “Not seven times but seventy-seven times.” (Some translations say seventy times seven times.) Of course, Jesus means that our forgiveness must be like that of God. It must know no bounds. We must forgive always. No matter how egregious the sin against us. No matter how many times the offense occurs. Forgive, forgive, forgive, forgive…we must never stop. That being said, the hardest time to forgive is always the first time.
Many people think that forgiveness is an emotion. It is not. Forgiveness is an act of the will. We don’t have to FEEL like forgiving. We don’t even have to FEEL the forgiveness. And chances are very good that we won’t at first. Fresh wounds are the hardest ones to get past when it comes to offering forgiveness. And one other mistake people make is that they equate forgiving with forgetting. Forgetting is not really something that we can control. Don’t think that the two are the same. We MUST forgive, even when we can’t forget. And when we can’t forget, that means that we will have to forgive over and over and over and over again. Because if we don’t, neither will our Father forgive us.
Father, you know that forgiving is such a difficult thing for us, especially when we have been badly hurt. Give us the grace to forgive again and again, that you will do the same for us. Amen.