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Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Forgiving others was at the core of Jesus’ teaching. Peter thought he was being generous in suggesting a limit of seven times (rabbinical teaching had recommended forgiveness for a repeated offence to be extended no more than three times). Jesus’ reply must have startled him. The same Peter would later receive threefold forgiveness from his master for denying him. Jesus resembled the king in the parable in pardoning a terrible hurt. He gave Peter back his self-esteem and a chance to start afresh.

The king had released the servant from a debt that he would never have been able to pay: in today’s money it would be several billion euro. The servant had the opportunity to go forward in his life, as Peter was able to do; instead, he was trapped inside his own selfishness and could not let go of what was a relatively small amount of money.

Forgiveness isn’t easy. Wounded feelings, a sense of injustice and humiliation, can lurk in the shadows for a long time in a person. The desire for revenge is very strong. We saw this in Northern Ireland with tit-for-tat retaliation. The voice of Gordon Wilson, forgiving those who had murdered his beautiful daughter, contrasted starkly with the actions of the paramilitaries.

On the cross, Jesus forgave those who had inflicted his suffering (Luke 23:34). Then, when the repentant thief begged to be remembered, he promised him a new life in paradise (Luke 23:39-44).