A reflection by Fr. Frank Hegel, SFM, on Matthew 18.15-20.

Matthew invites us to forgive from the heart. This is only possible when we are open to the truth about ourselves and how we conduct our affairs, a truth often hard to face, especially when we behave in ways we would prefer to hide. We can forgive when we discover that our actions and/or attitudes might have caused or contributed to the injury the other has inflicted on us.

If I am repeatedly abused I will find it harder to forgive than if I am not. If a nation or ethnic group or religion is repeatedly abused by another through self-interest, greed, intolerance, insensitivity, lack of justice, then the abused party will find it harder to forgive than if they were not repeatedly violated. As well, the person who has not been the beneficiary of mercy or forgiveness will find it harder to forgive than those who have been.

We are invited today to discover how our own actions/attitudes have contributed to others’ desire of revenge. Then let us pray to receive God’s forgiveness, and the grace to forgive ourselves for these actions/attitudes. If we can receive God’s forgiveness personally, perhaps we can move on and find the grace to forgive those who injure us as a society or as a nation.  If we cannot forgive ourselves, it will be impossible to pardon others.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us about forgiveness. First, be a good listener. If someone sins against you, go and point out their fault privately.  If that person does not listen to you, take one or two others who can confirm every word said by you. If this does not work, tell the entire community about your dispute and ask for their input. Finally, if this does not work, treat the person as a nonbeliever.

The challenge of Jesus is to be a forgiven person and to live in such a way that we can reverse the spiral of vengeance by being a forgiving person in a forgiving world. Let us pray for this grace.