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March 13, 2012 is the Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent. The reading is from Gospel of  Mathew 18:21-35

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 him 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 your brother from your heart.

The discourse in the above reading deals with the forgiveness that the disciples are to give to their fellow disciples who sin against them.

Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” (Matthew 18:21)

To this question of Peter Jesus answers that it is to be given without limit, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:22).

Mathew 18:21–22 correspond to the verse in Luke 17:4: “And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.”

Jesus then illustrates the act of forgiving with the parable of the unmerciful servant (Mathew 18:23–34), with the warning “… So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.” (Mathew 18:35).

Rev. Edward M. Bryce, Pastor of St. Bede Parish. Pittsburgh, PA, in his REFLECTIONS: “LORD, IF MY BROTHER SINS AGAINST ME, HOW OFTEN MUST I FORGIVE? AS MANY AS SEVEN TIMES.” says:

Some scripture philologists remind us that seven was considered as the perfect number. So Peter’s question anticipated Jesus’ answer. His ‘seven times?’ was a poetic way of saying ‘always?’ Jesus’ answer played the same poetic card but upped the ante, ‘seventy times seven.’ No matter how you do the math, the answer is ‘always’- God’s answer. Forgiveness must always be available. Pope John Paul II said so often in the waning years of his pontificate that peace among people can only come with dialogue and forgiveness.

In our own personal struggle with forgiveness, whether as performing the acts of the penitent or the giving the gift to the offender, we usually find refuge in the thought, “If I thought the person really meant that he or she was sorry, then I could forgive.” No! Go back and read the exchange between Peter and Jesus. Our position (stated in the quotes) is only step one on a long journey to the virtue of forgiveness. Christ calls us across the chasm of self-concern to self-donation.

Abū ʿAbdullāh Muhammad ibn Idrīs al-Shāfi‘ī (Arabic: ابو عبدالله محمد بن إدريس الشافعيّ‎) was a Muslim jurist, who lived from 767 AD to 820 AD. He was a descendant of the Hashimi family of the Quaraish tribe to which the Holy Prophet (sallallahou alayhi wasallam) belonged. He was born in Gaza, Palestine, and was raised in Makkah, his parents’ home town.

He is considered the founder of Islamic jurisprudence.

Imam Shāfi‘ī (ra) died at the age of 54 in 820 AD., and was laid to rest in al-Fustat, Egypt. On his death-bed his student noble Imam Ismail Ibn Yahya al-Muzani asked him,  “What is your condition?” Then Imam Shāfi‘ī replied,

“I am journeying from this world, and departing from my brothers, drinking from the cup of death, and upon Allah, Exalted is His remembrance, arriving. And no! By Allah, I do not know if my soul is travelling towards Paradise or the Fire!”

Imam Shāfi‘ī (ra) then began to cry profusely and recited the following:

Elaika By Imam Shāfi‘ī  (Radiyallahu ‘Anhu)

‘To You, the Creator, I raise my longing,
And even if I am, O possessor of kindness and generosity, an evildoer, a criminal

When my heart became constricted and my paths became narrow,
I took my hope in Your pardon and forgiveness as an opening and an escape

My sins seemed very great to me but when I compared them to Your forgiveness,
I found Your forgiveness to be much greater

You are and still remain the only One who can forgive sins,
You grant and forgive out of Your benevolence and generosity

Were it not for You, then a servant could never defy Iblis
And how can that be when he mislead Your friend Adam

If only I knew! Will I arrive at Paradise that I may take delight
Or at Hellfire, that I may regret?

How capable is Allah! For the one acquainted with lament,
blood almost flows from his eyelids due to the excess of his emotions (lament)

He stands when the night extends out its darkness
Stands against himself out of extreme fear, sinful

Eloquent when he makes mention of his Lord
And in the mention of others than Him, he is speechless

He remembers days gone by of his youth
And what was in it of ignorance, he was a criminal

And so for the whole of his day, the companion of grief has become
the brother of sleeplessness and secret conversation when the night darkens

He says, ‘My beloved, You are what I request and desire
You are enough of a longing and benefit for those who have hope

Are You not the One who has provided for me and guided me
And You have not ceased being gracious to me and full of favours

Perhaps the Beneficent One will forgive my mistakes
And cover up my crime and what has gone forth

My sins seemed very great to me, so I turned (to You) in humility
Were it not for my contentment in you, I wouldn’t, O my Lord, have seen any comfort at all

So if You forgive me, You would have forgiven a sinner,
A rebellious, oppressive tyrant still sinning

So if You were to seek revenge from me, I would not despair
Even if they entered my soul into Jahannum, due to the sins

For my crimes are great, past and present
But Your forgiveness comes to the servant, more exalted and more great

The bounty of Allaah surrounds me from all sides
And Light from the Most Merciful has spread in the sky

And in the heart is the radiance of the beloved when he is reunited
And when glad tidings draw close, it becomes feverish

Exhilaration surrounds me, only for Allaah
It overlooks me in the darkness of the grave, apparent and clear

I protect my love, lest my desires should pollute it
And I preserve the contract of love, lest it be defiled

In my wakefulness is yearning and in my slumber is destiny
That’s pursuing my footsteps in ecstasy

Whoever holds fast to Allaah, he is protected from men
And whoever hopes for Him, then never will he regret…

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