I have yet to meet a mom who hasn’t experienced those unpleasant feelings of anger and resentment in her home. Maybe it’s feeling unappreciated for all of the “invisible” work you do. Maybe it’s arguing with your hubby over “who does more” now that motherhood involves a constant giving of yourself. Maybe it’s the fact that, despite your superb organizational skills, your kids still manage to lose their things and then have the audacity to scream and blame you for it. Let’s face it. Being a mom means the people in your home often owe you an apology.
In today’s Gospel, Christ tells the parable of a man who was forgiven a significant debt but refused to offer forgiveness to his servant who owed him much less. When someone injures you, it’s easy to place the focus entirely on the apology that he owes you. After all, it hurt! And given the strength of our feelings and emotions as women, it can be hard to forgive.
But Christ has a masterful way of dealing with this problem. His solution is not to focus first on what is owed to me, but to remember that God has forgiven me of much more. This is the Gospel secret to offering forgiveness. Somehow in recognizing how sweet is the divine love for me, I can find that supernatural strength to let go of the bitterness and resentment and offer true forgiveness. As the first reading from Sirach states, God hates finding his beloved souls trapped in “resentment and anger” (1 Sir 27:30).
Research experts on vulnerability and shame have made a remarkable discovery. People who have a strong sense of their own worthiness have an easier time owning up to their own mistakes. It’s precisely because they know that they are loveable that enables them to have greater humility and accountability. Because when they say, “I was wrong and I injured you. Mea culpa,” they know that that one sin doesn’t account for the whole of who they are.
And they also found that the reverse is true. Those who struggle with knowing their own worthiness also struggle mightily to admit their faults. Because they tend to feel that the sin defines them, if they would admit a fault out loud, it will confirm their greatest fear—that they are nothing but a wretch, that they are unlovable. (But, of course, that’s a lie).
And so, today’s Gospel confirms these truths. It is only by bringing my soul before God and understanding how much I have been forgiven—how much I am loved—that God can release my soul of any bitterness and resentment. I don’t have to live with frustration in my heart over the injuries I suffer at the hands of others. There’s another truly liberating option.
I can rest in the arms of the Father, knowing how much I am loved. This is indeed the “better part” (Lk 10:42) that heals my soul, “binds up the wounds of the brokenhearted” (Is 61:1), and empowers me to offer the forgiveness to others that makes them whole. Then they will know that even though they did do something hurtful, they are still lovable in God’s eyes.