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Matthew 18:21-35 The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. Then Peter approaching 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 his brother from his heart.” The other night, I asked my wife, Julie, to be the practice audience for my homily. I told her she got to be the first person to fall asleep during one of my homilies. I was amazed when she didn’t fall asleep. That means, one of you could earn the distinction of being the first person to fall asleep during one my homilies. Today could be your lucky day. Now, here comes the homily. If we don’t know how to forgive, we don’t know how to live. This choice between being someone who is unforgiving to others or being a forgiving person is probably one of the most important decisions we make in our lives. As a married man, I am constantly reminded of my need for forgiveness. The good news is that each of us gathered here today as baptized Christians are recipients of God’s forgiveness and grace. While we may sometimes question if God will really forgive us for what we have done, we must remember that we believe in the same God who forgave Moses the murderer, David the adulterer, Paul the Christian murderer and He will forgive us also. All we have to do is seek His forgiveness and grace, which is God’s free gift to us. So we brothers and sisters who have received God’s forgiveness and grace, are faced with the question of what are we going to do with the forgiveness and grace God has given us? Will we use God’s forgiveness and grace for our own selfish purpose or will we use God’s forgiveness and grace for His purpose? In today’s Gospel, we heard about the unforgiving servant who chose to use forgiveness and grace for his own selfish purpose. First, this unforgiving servant was spared having himself and his family being sold into slavery along with his property and he was forgiven what equates to over a billion dollars in debt. What does he choose to do after receiving this forgiveness and grace? He then immediately goes to choke a fellow servant who owes him about $15,000 in today’s dollars. Will we be like this unforgiving servant or are we instead going to use the forgiveness and grace we’ve been given for God’s purpose by sharing it with others who have sinned against us? God wants us to focus not only on what we’ve been given, but also on why we’ve been given it. The unforgiven servant has this attitude of “great, I’ve been saved, to Hell with everyone else.” It’s tempting for us to get trapped into being like this unforgiving servant who chokes the fellow servant indebted to him. How often we may find ourselves having a chokehold in our hearts on the boss who didn’t give us the recognition we feel we deserve, on the boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse who wasn’t faithful to us, the child who hasn’t shown us the respect we feel we deserve, the parent who has been getting on our last neve or the friend we loaned money to who hasn’t paid us back. How are we to decide what crime is over the edge or what sin is too great to be forgiven? The short answer is … we don’t. When Jesus tells Peter to forgive 77 times, he means to forgive without limit. When God gives His forgiveness and grace to each one of us, He wants each of us to share it with others. This is how God’s forgiveness and grace goes everywhere God wants it to go. Now when we forgive, what Jesus is talking about is releasing the chokehold we have in our hearts on that person who has sinned against us. It’s tempting to think that by maintaining that chokehold against the person who sinned against us, we are somehow hurting that person. When we do this, the truth is, the person we are hurting the most is ourselves. When we try to trap someone who has sinned against us in a chokehold in our heart, we end up living a tortured existence like the unforgiving servant. When we refuse to share God’s forgiveness with one another, it is kind of like us drinking poison and expecting it to hurt the other person. As we feel the poison of unforgiveness destroying the health of our hearts and the life within our hearts, the antidote for this poison comes from seeking God’s forgiveness and grace, securing it in our hearts and sharing it with those who have sinned against us. God wants us to seek his forgiveness wholeheartedly and secure His forgiveness and grace in our hearts. When we secure his forgiveness and grace in our hearts, this forgiveness and grace fills our hearts and overflows in such a way that sharing this forgiveness and grace with our brothers and sisters is something that comes naturally. Over the last four years that I have been studying to become a Deacon, many people have shared God’s grace with me, including my Godfather Deacon Ken Cappelletty, Msgr. Billian, Fr. Phil and now Fr. Jeremy, my wife Julie, my children, Journey, Faith and Becket, my parents as well as each of you who have prayed for me and shown me God’s grace in other ways. I am most grateful to each of you for the grace you have shared with me. All this grace you have shared with me resulted yesterday in me receiving God’s grace in a special way from the Church when Bishop Thomas laid His hands on me ordaining me as a Deacon. Now, I am excited to use the grace God has given me by sharing this grace with each of you by serving here at Corpus Christi University Parish. In a few moments, as we join together, we will say the following words as part of the Lord's Prayer: "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." When we say these words, let us call to mind someone who has sinned against us, which we have been clinging to in our hearts and release that chokehold against them in our hearts. God wants us to let it go and wish them well. We have an opportunity when we offer each other the sign of peace today, to wish this person well. If this person is not gathered here today with us, let us in our hearts offer this person who sinned against us a sign of peace. It is only then that we stop choking off God's forgiveness and grace keeping it from baring fruit in our lives and the lives of those we encounter and that we start allowing God's forgiveness and grace to flow through us to touch the lives of others. In the end, the question we each must ask ourselves is do we want to be known as the person who lives a tortured existence being unforgiving to others or do we want to be known as the person who makes God’s forgiveness and grace touch the lives of others? The choice is each of ours to make. The Choice each of us makes between unforgiving and forgiving can become the story of our lives. Let us remember today and every day, that to forgive is to live. … Oh, and if you fell asleep during my homily, I forgive you.

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