17 March 2009 Tuesday of the 3rd Week of Lent
Daniel 3, 25-43; Psalm 25; Matthew 18, 21-35
We continue with the Lenten theme of transformation and renewal towards becoming children of God. Jesus answered the question, “How many times should we forgive our brothers and sisters?” He said that we should forgive them, not just seven times but seventy seven times. Seven was for the Jews an infinite number, and thus seventy seven times means more than just infinity. It means: all the time, every time, until the end of our lives. This to me is consoling, difficult to do, but nevertheless consoling. It means God knows and understands humanity (John 2, 25).
We all have the tendency to err, to sin. There are things which we willfully do, but a lot of instances we do not intend to hurt others. We often say hurting remarks at the peak of a surging emotion such as depression or anger; or our outbursts come from stress. These pent up emotions needed release, and we displace them around us even at the most inappropriate venues. But as we always say at the Confiteor: “in what we have done and in what we failed to do”. That means we are capable of hurting others from what we actually neglected, failed to do, overlooked doing — and sometimes we were not able to fulfill them because we honestly did not remember. We had what we say in jest, “senior moments” and thus, we failed to do them without malice. In other words, we commit mistakes very often than what we are aware of. So when our relationships are strained or have ended, we attribute them to the things we did or neglected.
But we are social beings: we live, grow, develop and mature in relationships. The meanings in our lives are wrought by the bonds we belong to. St. Paul said that no one lives for himself or herself alone. Walang sinuman ang nabubuhay para sa sarili lamang. The philosopher, Hannah Arendt said in her book, The Human Condition, that there are two factors that preserves life from chaos: forgiveness, which deals with the mistakes of the past and promises, which deals with the uncertainty of the future. Therefore forgiveness patches broken or strained relationships. Forgiveness maintains, sustains, and deepens relationships. It is also the factor that makes relationships stay longer, and for many people, move till forever. Forgiveness promotes love, and when we promote love, we transform and become loving individuals. Warm and loving individuals mirror God who is love.
Thus the equation is simple: infinite forgiveness for our infinite mistakes.
And one more thing: forgiveness does not mean that we should forget. It means that we should let go of the pain, and transform it into concern. That is why we should not forget: we should correct the person we love by pointing out to them the pattern of their sinfulness (or to forgive ourselves means that we reflect on the pattern of our sinfulness). To know a pattern means to remember how many times it was done. You see, the first time is easily forgiveable. We can let a mistake pass, or a snide remark go. But if it is repeated, then we should correct the habit or as much as possible nip it in the bud. Forgiveness is therefore not to forget the mistakes, but to correct it in the context of a loving relationship.