In order to exhale generosity, we need to inhale gratitude. In order to exhale compassion, we need to inhale forgiveness.
Similarly, I believe that actions of mercy and compassion come from appropriating forgiveness - our own feeling of deeply, fully forgiven.
One way I've said this before is "in order to exhale generosity, we need to inhale gratitude. In order to exhale compassion, we need to inhale forgiveness."
But appropriating forgiveness is difficult. In Sunday's Gospel, we hear the story of Peter wanting to know what the limits or outer boundaries of forgiveness are. "How often do I need to forgive someone, Jesus? As many as seven times?" he asks. "Not seven, but seventy-seven," Jesus answers. (What's interesting is the Greek that's translated "seventy-seven" can also be translated seventy-times-seven. So when Peter says "do I really have to forgive seven times?", Jesus says "no, 77, or 490 times!")
The point -- especially as we get further into the parable -- is we aren't supposed to do the math. No, when it comes to forgiveness, we need to get away from the mentality of score-keeping.
You see, Peter, like most of us, wanted to keep score.
In some areas of life, it makes sense to keep score. Baseball, for example: Washington Nationals 5, Atlanta Braves, 2; Trea Turner has stolen 40 bases, is batting .285, with a .306 career batting average. Yay.
But there are areas in life where score-keeping does not make sense. Where it is destructive, even.
And forgiveness is one of those areas.
You are forgiven. Not because of anything you did or did not do, but because God chose to.
Your past has passed.
When it comes to forgiveness, not only have all your debts been wiped out, you have hit the Mega-Million lottery, and you are a multi-millionaire: even a billionaire.
To the degree you can appropriate that -- feel that forgiveness -- is the degree to which you will be able to look at someone who owes you - someone who is indebted to you, someone who has sinned against you - and say "oh my gosh, please don't worry about it, I forgive you. Not seven times, but seventy-times-seven. I'm grateful for all I've been given. I've hit the lottery, here, have some of what I've been blessed with, because when it comes to receiving forgiveness, I'm a billionaire, so, here, please, have some of what I've been given - there's plenty to go around."
As the vintage "Life" commercial put it: "Try it, you'll like it!"