ROME – On Sunday, Pope Francis spoke about the limitless love of God, and how it leads him to forgive us time and time again; something we must strive to do for others, no matter how many times they’ve sinned against us.
“The forgiveness of God is a sign of his overwhelming love for each of us; it is the love that leaves us free to move away, like the prodigal son, but that awaits our return every day; it is the enterprising love of the shepherd for the lost sheep; it is the tenderness that welcomes every sinner who knocks at his door,” the pontiff said.
“Heavenly Father, our father, is full and full of love and wants to offer it to us, but he cannot do it if we close our hearts to love for others,” the pope said on September 17.
Continuing, Francis pointed out how Jesus teaches us this in the Our Father, when he directly links the forgiveness we ask of God with the forgiveness we give to our brothers and sisters in the words: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
In his Angelus address, Francis reflected on the day’s Gospel reading from Matthew, where St. Peter asks Christ: “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?”
To Peter, seven already seems like the maximum amount of times we should forgive the same person, Francis said. And maybe to us it seems like twice is already a lot.
But Christ’s response is that we must forgive seven times seventy times, “that is to say always. You always have to forgive,” he said. Christ confirms this by telling a parable, the pope continued, a parable which shows “the inconsistency of the one who was forgiven before and then refuses to forgive.”
The king in the parable is a generous man who has compassion on his servant when he begs for forgiveness of a large debt and forgives him.
The servant on the other hand refuses to forgive a much smaller debt of a fellow servant and “behaves in a ruthless way,” having him thrown in prison.
“The incoherent attitude of this servant is also ours when we refuse forgiveness to our brothers,” the pope said. “While the king of the parable is the image of God who loves us with a love so abundant of mercy from embracing us, loving us and forgiving us continually.
“Since our Baptism God has forgiven us, remitting an insoluble debt: original sin. But that’s the first time. Then, with unlimited mercy, He forgives us all the faults as soon as we show even a little sign of repentance,” the pope said. “God is so merciful.”
When we are tempted to behave as the servant did toward his fellow servant, closing off our hearts to those who have offended us and come to apologize, we must remember the words of the Heavenly Father, he stated.
He told the ruthless 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?
“Anyone who has experienced the joy, peace, and inner freedom that comes from being forgiven can open themselves to the possibility of forgiving in turn,” he noted.
Concluding, Francis turned to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who he said “helps us to be more and more aware of the gratuitousness and greatness of the forgiveness received from God.”
May she help us to become as “merciful as He is, the good Father: Slow to anger and great in love.”