Forgive not seven times, but seventy-seven times
`Forgiveness is a gift I give myself .’ Edith Eger,
Sirach in today`s first reading exhorts us to `Forgive your neighbour`s injustice`. I knew a man once, a small farmer, who did just that. Jose had a field and a few cattle. In spite of protests and petitions the new highway was built right through his land. No way could he graze the cows on his field which was now on the other side of the motorway. Jose then built a bridge over a ravine so he could graze them on a stretch of no man’s land. The neighbouring landowner, began to cause trouble, injuring the cattle and finally breaking down the little bridge. Jose was being persecuted; he spoke to the offender but to no avail. His livelihood was being threatened. On Sundays and some nights during the week Jose, along with members of the Basic Christian community, walked on the motorway to get to their chapel. There José shared the scriptures with the community. At one of the community meetings I asked him how he dealt with the difficulties and the persecution, his answer stays with me: `God sees all and God will do justice. All will be well`, quoting Exodus 3, 7ff, and he continued, `How can I pray the Our Father if I don`t forgive?’
` Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’.
Today’s gospel comes at the end of Matthew chapter 18. This chapter is the 4th discourse which is centered on the life of the community – a community of pardon. Things must have been pretty bad by the time the Gospel of Matthew was written – the divisions between Jew and Gentile in the communities had grown. How often should we forgive? Luke has 7×7 while Jesus’s answer to Peter in Matthew is 77!! Jesus never ceases to tell us that forgiveness is essential in our daily lives. The forgiveness of the King in the parable today, the amount that was forgiven, written off, was enormous. Yet the person forgiven goes and uses violence against those who owe him a paltry sum. The father in the story of the prodigal son gives absolute forgiveness which involved seeking out the offender and welcoming him home. Forgiveness is integral in the life of Jesus – the `no questions asked’ forgiveness. The
disciples who just didn`t get it: Peter who made so many gaffs, those who crucified Him, all were forgiven without question, without judgment, without recrimination.
The Lord is kind and compassionate; slow to anger and rich in mercy.
Sr. Bridget O’Driscoll OP