(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)
That's a lot of times: if my brother sins against me quarterly, I would be forgiving him for 122.5 years. Once a month and I would have to forgive him for 40.83 months. Once a day would equate to 490 consecutive days of forgiveness. It's a wonder nobody has written a nice little application for palm pilots that help one keep track of such things.
Forgiveness ought to be an automatic and inexhaustible response. Here is an example: a brother walks into the room where his younger sister is watching television. She is watching something he doesn't particularly care for, so he grabs the remote from her and switches the channel. She shrieks and pounds him on the shoulder and grabs the remote back. He, with a scurrilous outburst, pounces on her and the fight is on until mom comes down the stairs and sends them both to their rooms. Had she forgiven him his initial sin, he hers, she his second, or he her second, et cetera, then this situation would never had reached the level it did and family harmony would have been preserved. Four opportunities for forgiveness, none utilized.
Remember this — he who has not sinned is more apt to forgive quickly than he who has. Christ forgave, He never sinned. We sin, and all too commonly hold grudges, sin in retaliation and fail to forgive. However, the less we sin and the more we embrace the life of grace, the more likely we are to forgive small and even large trespasses against us. Think about it. When anyone is in a state of sin, they are more likely to snap, be impatient and let pride take the reins.
The opposite is also true. When we refuse to forgive we begin to sin more. Because, if we are to believe the words of this Sunday's Gospel, failure to forgive is in fact a punishable act. Therefore sinful. Which is exactly why the Lord is so demonstrative in His explanation to Peter. He considers it absurd to count out how many times we should forgive. He never says we have to continue taking beatings from someone, but we must forgive them. Both for their sakes and our own. For when we persist in failing to forgive we are failing. We are sinning. we are allowing someone else's sin to cause us to sin. And then the devil's got you where he wants you. Jerk.
Forgiveness can be a struggle at times, but the fight is always worth it. God grants grace to those who are able to forgive without sinning. What did Christ do on the Cross, forgive or retaliate? The countless sins committed against our Lord which placed Him on the Cross and ultimately killed Him were met with these simple words, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Imitate Him.