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The Year of the Jubilee

The Old Testament calendar had a year called the year of the Jubilee. It
was the fiftieth year after the Israelites entered the land of Canaan.

There were many rules to be observed during this year, like giving
freedom to slaves. That is why sometimes it was called the year of
liberty. God wanted the Israelites to remember how they were slaves in
the land of Egypt and how God gave them their liberty, and He wanted
them to celebrate the liberty that God granted them by giving liberty to
their slaves.
But one of the most remarkable things about this year was the
commandment that each one had to forgive others the debts they owed Him.
God wanted them to remember that He had forgiven the Israelites the
debts they owed Him, and He wanted them to do the same to their debtors.
In the New Testament there is an implied commandment that we should
forgive our debtors. In Matt 6:12, when the Lord was teaching us how to
pray, he taught us to say: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our
debtors.” Of course the debts the Lord was speaking about were not debts
of money but other kinds of debts. This is obvious from the way St. Luke
cites this same prayer in Luke 11:4, “And forgive us our sins; for we
also forgive every one that is indebted to us.”
It is obvious from this that the debts to be forgiven are the sins
others commit against us. In return, the Lord forgives our own debts to
Him; the many sins we commit against Him every moment of our life on
earth. In order to clarify this, the Church Universal has standardized
the Lord’s prayer so that we say: “And forgive us our trespasses as we
forgive those who trespass against us.”
This forgiveness of others is not to be practised once every fifty years
as in the Old Testament. Not even once a year or once a month or once a
week or once a day or even seven times everyday as St. Peter proposed,
but seven times seventy. That is because God does the same to us.
The Lord made His forgiveness of our sins conditional on our forgiveness
of others’ sins: Mat 6:14 -15 tells us: “For if ye forgive men their
trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye
forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your
trespasses.”
The Lord gave us a very graphic parable to show us what he means. He
told us about a Master who had a servant who owed Him 10,000 talents
(let us say 10,000 dollars). He couldn’t pay so his Master forgave him.
This servant had a fellow servant who owed him 100 pence, something like
a hundred pennies or five dollars, and he couldn’t pay. So the servant
who was forgiven the 10,000 dollars took his fellow servant to court
because he owed him five dollars. We all know the story: the Master
changed his mind and told that servant that he will no longer forgive
him the 10,000 dollars and sent him to jail. The moral of the story is
this, as the Lord tells us in Mt 18:35: “So likewise shall my heavenly
Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one
his brother their trespasses.” Underline from your hearts! That means
forgiving by our lips but not with our hearts does not count!
This forgiveness from the heart is important especially before we stand
to pray, for the Lord tells us in Mark 11:25: “And when ye stand
praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also
which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not
forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your
trespasses.”
The Lord gave us an example by asking His Father to forgive those who
crucified Him! And so did Stephen when with his last breath, he asked
God to forgive those who were stoning him.
But how can we do that? The Lord showed us by His example how to do
that, when He prayed saying: “Father, forgive them; for they know not
what they do.” And this is the first step in forgiving others, inventing
excuses for them. This is what the Lord did. Those who crucified Him had
been planning and conspiring about it for a long time, and they knew
exactly what they were doing. And even after the Lord arose again and
the soldiers told them that, they did not repent but gave the soldiers a
lot of money and told them: say his disciples stole his body! And yet
the Lord who knew this even before it happened, made this excuse for
them: they know not what they do. St. Paul also takes the same attitude
in 1 Cor 2:8 “had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord
of glory.”
We can do the same. We are very clever when it comes to inventing
excuses for our own sins: “He started it!” “She was asking for it.” “I
was upset!” “I didn’t know what I was doing!” “The devil made me do it!”
How about: “I started it!” “I was asking for it!” “She was upset!” “He
didn’t know what he was doing.”
The second step is praying for those who hurt us as the Lord tells us in
Matt 5:44-45 “Pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute
you, that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.” Do
you know what that means? It means unless I do this I cannot be a child
of our Father which is in heaven! It means I cannot dare call on Him
saying: “Our Father Who art in heaven” I have no right to call Him
Father in prayer unless this prayer has an intercession for my enemies,
who hate me and make my life miserable and persecute me! That is what we
are expected to do, no ifs or buts! “Be ye therefore perfect, even as
your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Matt 5:48 Nothing less will do!
So let us have a new year’s resolution: Let us make 2010 a year of
Jubilee; a year of forgiveness, in which each one of us will forgive
others all that they have done against him or her and let us do this
from our hearts and not from our lips as the Lord asks us to do. Let us
dig out of our heart the hatred that we have stored for years against
those who have done us wrong! Let us weed out the ill will that we have
been harbouring against our brothers and sister. Let this year be the
year of reconciliation. Let us be perfect by praying for our enemies
because that is what Christ did and what He is asking us to do. Saint
Paul reminds us in Rom 5:10 that “we (ourselves) were enemies, (and) we
were reconciled to God by the death of his Son”
Let us take this year to be a year of Jubilee, a year of peace and
reconciliation with those who hurt us, with those who hate us, with
those who did us wrong. Let us continually pray for them from the heart.
Let us pray saying to God the Father: Forgive them Father for they knew
not what they did to us. Only then can we be children of our heavenly
Father. Only then we dare say: And forgive us our trespasses as we
forgive those who trespass against us. Glory be to God forever. Amen.