A reflection by Fr. Ron MacDonell, S.F.M., on Joshua 3.7-10a,11,13-17 and Matthew 18.21-19.1
Today we hear that God has chosen Joshua as the successor to Moses. Joshua is to lead the people into Canaan, the Promised Land. Through Moses, God parted the waters of the Red Sea so that the people could leave slavery in Egypt to journey in the desert to their own land. Now God parts the waters of the Jordan River as the priests, carrying the Ark of the Covenant, step into the water. Joshua and the people leave the desert wasteland to enter the Promised Land, flowing with milk and honey. These crossings prefigure Jesus himself, crossing from death on the cross to the new life of the Resurrection. He leads us, by the water of baptism, from the slavery of sin to the Kingdom of justice and peace.
In the Gospel, Jesus teaches us that forgiveness is a sign of the Kingdom. Peter asks him, “Lord, if a brother or sister sins against me, how often would I forgive someone? As many as seven times?” We know the answer: seventy-seven times! Jesus exaggerates the answer to show we called to forgive, and forgive from the heart. He tells the parable of the two debtors: the king forgives the slave owing 10,000 talents, but this slave refuses to forgive his debtor the much smaller amount of 100 denarii. God is merciful and forgives us. We are called to forgive others.
How hard it is to forgive! We must first recognize that we have been hurt. If we find it impossible to forgive someone, we can pray for the grace to be able to forgive. We can pray for the person who has harmed us. We remember and take courage of Jesus on the cross, who forgave his persecutors, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23.34).
Finally, we must humbly be aware that, just as we have been at times been hurt, we have hurt others as well. We are called to make amends as much as we can. Praying for the grace to forgive, and reaching out in forgiveness, is to cross over the Jordan River, to leave the desert and enter the heart of God, flowing with love and peace.