“Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-22)
I hope you enjoy a good challenge. Today is Part II of the conversation I began with you last week about seeing God in everyone, including people we disagree with.
The challenge I have in mind today is forgiveness. Do you think of forgiveness as something you measure out, depending on the why and wherefore? That must have been Peter’s thought when he asked Jesus if it was OK to forgive someone “seven times,” using an expression that in ancient cultures signified completeness or perfection. To Peter, that must have seemed like quite the gesture. But to Jesus it left a lot of room for improvement. “Seventy-seven times” is what Our Lord said in reply, taking Peter and the rest of us beyond our human calculations to the expansiveness of his heavenly Father. In God’s world, there are no limits to forgiveness.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks us to forgive generously—even extravagantly—just as our Father in heaven is forgiving. The reason why was never more clear to me than when I served in mission among the Aymara of Peru years ago. They taught me that forgiveness brings as much reward to the one who gives as the one who receives. Before the start of Mass, the Aymara would hold a communal pardoning. If there were 100 people there, it didn’t matter. However long it took, each person asked someone for forgiveness. They would repeat this ritual at planting time or any public event. What I came to understand is that each of us has something that needs forgiving. The only way to restore a relationship is to take the first step—and that’s asking for forgiveness.
Friend, the “arithmetic of the day” is simple: forgive, then be forgiven. No matter the challenge, recognizing the presence of God in everyone is where the healing starts.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Father Raymond J. Finch, M.M.
Prayer for 2nd Sunday, September 13, 2020
Begging Your forgiveness, Lord,
I come before You on bended knee
not daring to stand nor raise my head
in Your loving presence
till You have mercy on me.
Not clinging to grudges or resentments
I come before You, Lord,
with open, empty hands,
ready to receive Grace to forgive
others even as You forgive me.
Freed from fear of faults and failure
may my heart willingly offer others all
I have received from You
who gave up heaven to come to earth
and sacrificed Your life that all
who believe in You might truly live.
Prayer by Maryknoll Missioner, Father Joseph Veneroso