Forgiveness…It’s not an easy concept. We understand the need for our forgiveness and often understand our need to forgive others (though that’s not always easy). But Jesus teaches a hard lesson in the Gospel, when Peter asked him about forgiving others we hear this, “Jesus answered, ‘I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.’”
WHOA! In Biblical terms the numbers 7 is the number of perfection and fulfillment. It’s like using the idea of “infinity” today, its never-ending and immeasurable time. But Jesus doesn’t stop there, he goes on to tell a parable of a master who tried to collect some money that was owed to him and forgave one his debtors the loan. This man, who was forgiven, turned around and tried to collect on a loan he was owed. He did not show the same mercy and forgiveness that was shown him.
How often is that how we respond? We can be quick to recognize and ask for forgiveness for our own failings. But we are also as quick to judge and demand retribution for wrongs done to us. But Jesus reminds us of our need to forgive others, but not just that we forgive but that we understand if we want forgiveness we have to show that same mercy and compassion to others. We pray this, at least every Sunday, when we pray the Our Father – “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” This petition is not one sided: we say please forgive us AS we forgive those.
But do not despair! We have hope! We have the beauty of the sacraments and the assurance of Christ’s love and mercy. We hear this message twice in the readings for Sunday – “The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion,” and, again, “I give you a new commandment, says the Lord; love one another as I have loved you.” And we know that if we are called to forgive “77” times, we can know, with certainty, that God forgives us even more frequently!
Related Messages on Forgiveness: