Marriage is a master class in forgiveness

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A reflection for the Tuesday of the third week of Lent

“Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times’” (Mt 18:22).

Marriage is a master class in forgiving and being forgiven.

You know that old song about always hurting the one you love, the one you absolutely shouldn’t hurt? It’s marriage. Your true love, your closest friend, your most intimate partner is often the one you lose your temper with, the one who sees you getting heated. You say things you regret. You are kinder to strangers than to your spouse. At least, that’s what the old song says.

And when one spouse needs forgiveness and the other needs forgiveness, it’s time to talk.

Like any healthy relationship, a strong marriage rests on the fruits of the Spirit that Saint Paul describes in his letter to the Galatians: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Forgiveness should make this list. But forgiveness can be tricky because damage is involved. We are tempted to hold grudges, to resurrect past slights as ammunition in present disagreements. Along with forgiveness, we must be willing to let go of resentment. We have to wipe the slate clean for the day. To forgive is not to forget, but neither is it to purify.

I note next that Jesus gives this answer of infinite forgiveness to a question from a married man.

Today’s Gospel powerfully reminds us that the mercy we need for ourselves is not always the mercy we extend to others. We can honk at an inattentive driver sitting on a green light, for example, but we want other drivers to give us a pass when we do the same. Don’t they understand that we had a tough day at work or a death in the family or a crisis with a teenager? No, they don’t, just like we didn’t stop to think about that other driver’s extenuating circumstances before sounding the horn. The servant in Jesus’ story reveals his need for forgiveness, asks forgiveness, and accepts his master’s forgiveness, but he withholds that same mercy from the man who is indebted to him. He fails to see the lesson that forgiveness is a two-sided action verb, that the compassion shown to him must bear fruit in his life. May we learn from his fate.

I note next that Jesus gives this answer of infinite forgiveness to a question from a married man.

As my husband and I resolve any issues that have arisen between us, as we forgive and ask forgiveness for the hurt we have caused to the one we should not hurt at all, it seems to me that seventy- seven is a minimum estimate for a marriage that began in 1980. By the grace of God, we are working on the old translation of seventy times seven. Remember your mercy, oh Lord.

Get to know Valerie Schultz, Contributing Writer

What are you giving up for Lent?

Sugar, my sworn enemy. Sugar usually wins. In retreat, I add a daily rosary.

Do you cheat on Sunday?

Far be it from me to touch an age-old family tradition of Lenten Sundays. When I was a kid, I thought everyone did that.

Favorite meatless recipe

We are vegetarians, so Lent is perpetual! To entertain meat eaters, the simplest meatless recipes start with pasta.

Favorite Lenten Hymn

Psalm 91, by Marty Haugen: “Be with me Lord, when I’m in trouble / Be with me Lord, I pray.” It’s a chorus that got me through a lot of tough times.

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