The limits of forgiveness

Fr Paul reads Matthew’s Gospel (18:15-20) in which Jesus talks to his disciples about resolving differences and reminds us that ‘wherever two or more are gathered in my name I shall be there with them’.

In today’s Gospel, Fr Paul says we learn that Matthew is a realist. Despite Jesus being there with them, the writer of Matthew knows there are going to be disagreements and misunderstandings in every community and in every family.  The writer of Matthew is making the point that it is vital to sort things out… don’t let things fester.

The writer in this Gospel sets down a process of how to reconcile with one another.  It is interesting to note, that just after this Gospel (in fact it is in the Gospel we will hear tomorrow), that this process of attempted reconciliation is supplemented by Jesus’ own teaching that we have to forgive not just seven times but seventy-seven times.  In other words, there is no limit to how many times we are to forgive.

At the end of this Gospel, we are reminded that Christ is always present in his community. If you look at the very beginning of Matthew’s Gospel we read that Jesus was named ‘Emmanuel’; a name which means ‘God is with us’.  If you turn and look at the last lines of Matthew’s Gospel you will see the words, ‘I am with you always, yes, till the end of time’. So, this theme of Jesus being present in his community is very much at the heart of Matthew’s Gospel.

For our prayer today we might reflect, knowing we are in the presence of God, ‘Are there people and are there things that I am yet to forgive in my life?’