“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” from The Lord’s Prayer
In today’s reading from the gospel of Matthew, “Peter approached Jesus and asked him, ‘Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.’” Then Jesus tells us all the familiar story of the man whose sizable debt is forgiven by a generous king. As the story continues, that same man refuses to forgive a much smaller debt owed to him by another. In this version of the gospel, Jesus tells us we must forgive 77 times; in another it is seventy times seven times. Regardless of the number, the message carries an important reminder for us all: the great obligation we have to forgive others.
Jesus gave himself to us completely for the remission of our sin. His gift was a total self-donation, holding nothing back from his beloved – you and me. We are called to do the same. Yet we often recoil from this action.
I’ve been kind of crabby lately, and I’ve been struggling not to let the little things bug me and exacerbate my temper. Yesterday I read the quote hanging above my kitchen sink. It is from Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, “Holiness does not consist in doing extraordinary things. It consists in accepting with a smile, what Jesus sends us. It consists in accepting and following the will of God.”
So, I made a choice, a decision in the moment to smile and to accept and to follow the will of God.
What God puts in front of me, either by his active or permissive will, is his plan for me. When I can look at the annoyance before me, smile at it (both physically and internally), and accept it as the will of God, then I can follow it and not sin because of it. For me, those situations represent areas of forgiveness. That might sound funny, but follow my logic.
When I’m crabby, everything bugs me – everything big and small. I start grousing and grumbling to myself. Then I become selfish and do not want to serve and love as I should. I become short-tempered, mostly with the people I love, and the spiral continues. Yesterday, my daughter called upon me yet again to do something I didn’t feel like doing. As moms, this kind of thing happens all the time. You know the situation: your child is upstairs and is too lazy to walk downstairs to talk to you, so they yell from upstairs. I’m doing whatever I’m doing, and of course, am actually being asked to stop what I’m doing to walk over to the bottom of the stairs to listen. Yesterday, as so often happens, the stinkin’ thinkin’ kicked in, and I started to grouch as this scene once again played out in my home. But..this time I stopped myself and followed Mother Teresa’s advice. I smiled. I accepted that particular moment as God’s will for me and followed it. The next thing I did was to forgive her in advance for what it was she did to bug me. This action blessed us both.
This is a little thing, and perhaps an inconsequential example, but I believe if we can practice this attitude in the little things that we will be more likely to be able to do it in the big things.
God is so generous with us, yet we can be so stingy. Think about all the ways we offend him from the smallest thoughtless words to the most heinous sin. He forgives us totally. We must do the same so that one day we will hear him say, “‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’” (Mt 25:23)
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner! Anne