Could lovingly forgiving someone else enable me to love myself?

March 9, 2021

Song of the Three Young Men 2–4,11–20a | Matthew 18:21–35 | Psalm 25:3–10

Matthew 18:21-35

Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, `Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, `Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, `Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, `You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

So, what does this parable say to me today? At 80 I realize that, although thanks be to God I rarely need to forgive anyone, when I do I’m likely to grant myself an exemption: for example, “After all, look how that person’s lack of love has affected my whole life!” But then I remember: forgiving—realizing that, like me, that person was only doing the best he/she could do—releases such a heavy burden from my heart.  

Could lovingly forgiving someone else enable me to love myself? Might that be the key I’ve sought so long, so that I can love my neighbor as myself?

Marie Hennedy, in conversation with Betsy Fornal