Wednesday, August 10, 2005



AUGUST 11, 2005

JOSHUA 3:7-10A, 11, 13-17
The LORD said to Joshua, "Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight
of all Israel, that they may know I am with you, as I was with Moses.
Now command the priests carrying the ark of the covenant to come to a
halt in the Jordan when you reach the edge of the waters." So Joshua
said to the children of Israel, "Come here and listen to the words of
the LORD, your God. This is how you will know that there is a living
God in your midst, who at your approach will dispossess the Canaanites.
The ark of the covenant of the LORD of the whole
earth will precede you into the Jordan. When the soles of the feet of
the priests carrying the ark of the LORD, the Lord of the whole earth,
touch the water of the Jordan, it will cease to flow; for the water
flowing down from upstream will halt in a solid bank." The people
struck their tents to cross the Jordan, with the priests carrying the
ark of the covenant ahead of them. No sooner had these priestly bearers
of the ark waded into the waters at the edge of the Jordan, which
overflows all its banks during the entire season of the harvest, than
the waters flowing from upstream halted, backing up in a solid mass for
a very great distance indeed, from Adam, a city in the direction of
Zarethan; while those flowing downstream toward the Salt Sea of the
Arabah disappeared entirely. Thus the people crossed over opposite
Jericho. While all Israel crossed over on dry ground, the priests
carrying the ark of the covenant of the LORD remained motionless on dry
ground in the bed of the Jordan until the whole nation had completed
the passage.

MATTHEW 18:21-19:1
Peter approached Jesus and asked him, "Lord, if my brother sins against
me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus
answered, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. That
is why the Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to
settle accounts with his servants. When he began the accounting, a
debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. Since he had
no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with
his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt.
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, `Be patient
with me, and I will pay you back in full.' Moved with compassion the
master of that servant let him go
and forgave him the loan. When that servant had left, he found one of
his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him
and started to choke him, demanding, `Pay back what you owe.' Falling
to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, `Be patient with me, and I
will pay you back.' But he refused. Instead, he had the fellow servant
put in prison until he paid back the debt. Now when his fellow servants
saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their
master and reported the whole affair. His master summoned him and said
to him, `You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you
begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I
had pity on you?' Then in anger his master handed him over to the
torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly
Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his
heart." When Jesus finished these words, he left Galilee and went to
the district of Judea across the Jordan.

In today's gospel, Peter, it seems, wanted to impress Jesus by
showing how well he had learned one of the lessons Jesus had been
teaching his disciples. The Rabbis taught that one need forgive an
offender no more than three times. So Peter put a question to Jesus:
"when my brother wrongs me, how often must I forgive him, seven times?"
Of course, Peter was quietly patting himself on the back expecting
affirmation and praise from Jesus. But Jesus was not impressed. He
made it clear to Peter that he had not learned well enough. He said,
"not seven times, but seventy times seven times," which in Jewish idiom
meant, "you must forgive as often as you are offended."

There are certain aspects of forgiveness into which Jesus did not
probe. But we have to ask these questions. What is forgiveness? What
does it consist of? What elements of inter-relatedness does it

For instance, does forgiveness imply necessarily a rebirth of
trust? If, as an example, an employee robs us a fourth time after we
had forgiven him three times and each time rehired him, must we rehire
him once again? Is this demanded by forgiveness?

If a person constitutes a danger to the common good, does forgiveness
mean we must set him free, thus risking the common welfare?

Forgiveness, in itself, is an attitude of mind that sees the offender
as one loved by God, and therefore a person to whom we should wish only
good, for whom we should pray honestly and sincerely. But the larger
Christian concern, concern for the general welfare, for the good of
innocent people, may indicate that even while we forgive the offender,
we must put limitations on his freedom.

Ultimately, the deciding factor in determining how far forgiveness
should extend in individual cases, is, as it is in every Christian
decision, the law of love, love for the individual and love for the

"Lord, you have been kind and forgiving towards me. May I be merciful
as you are merciful. Free me from all bitterness and resentment that I
may truly forgive from the heart those who have caused me injury or

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