How many times is seventy times seven?
Peter speaks for each one of us in today's Gospel passage when he says, "How many times am I supposed to forgive the neighbor who keeps sinning? After seven times, if he still sins, what's the point in forgiving him again?"
"No, not seven times," Jesus says, "seventy times seven,"which according to my Father's calculator in heaven, is infinite.
The name 70x7 is synonymous with God's eternal forgiveness. Matthew 18:21-22 reads: Then Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven."
Jesus isn't telling us to forgive our brothers 490 times, or 70 times, or 77 times. He's telling us we should always forgive our brothers when they have sinned against us. God in heaven has forgiven us all of humanity's sins. How wrong it would be for us to deny our brothers and sisters a similar forgiveness for much lesser matters. Back in the book of Matthew (18:23-35), Jesus tells a parable to emphasize this point.
Why do we find it so hard to forgive others even though it is the only way to gain God’s forgiveness? I think it is because we fail to appreciate and celebrate our own forgiveness. Like the unforgiving servant in the parable, we focus on the 100 denarii that our neighbor owes us rather than the 1000 talents we owe to God which He has graciously cancelled.
We would rather only forgive people if they "go and sin no more." But waiting for their repentance is harmful to us. When we choose to pray "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they're doing," we break the chains of anger that bind us to what they did. We're no longer a victim of the incident that hurt us. The wounds of our heart and spirit are healed, because we receive directly from Jesus the love that was supposed to come from those who sinned against us.
Forgiveness, like love, is a decision, not a feeling. It begins with an honest prayer: "Father, I don't want to forgive them, but I choose to forgive them. I ask You to forgive them, too. And please forgive me for holding onto my resentment, anger or bitterness." Did you realize you're already praying this whenever you recite the "Our Father." Jesus taught us to pray, "Father, forgive us as we forgive others." He did NOT add, "Unless, of course, they don't want to stop sinning." Let us pray for deeper appreciation of God’s loving mercy so that we can forgive others, too.
23A Fraternal Correction
Ez 33:7-9/ Ps 95:1-2. 6-7. 8-9
Rom 13: 8-10
Mt. 18: 15-20
Two lessons are being presented in today's gospel:
1) It is about conversion—by giving the one who offended us a chance to repent without publicly destroying his/her name.
2) Jesus condemns all destructive gossip.
One day, a young man approached a monk and told the monk that he had engaged in gossiping. To teach him a lesson about the permanent damage that gossip can cause others, the monk sent the young man to the bridge over the river and bring along with him a pillow. He was instructed that once he on the bridge the young man should cut open the pillow and shake out its feathers. Upon returning, the monk sent back the young man to collect the feathers. "But that's impossible", the young man replied. "By now they have flown in every direction. I could never get them back." "Exactly", said the monk. Your gossip is the same. Once released it can never be retrieved.
One of the most common defects of people (male/female, single/married, young/old) is the persistent habit of discussing another's fault with everyone else, except with the person at fault. Some people seem to take pleasure at another person's wrongdoing because it gives them something to talk about and perhaps, it is a way to cover up their own wrong doings. It is even said that the faults we find most repugnant in others are precisely the ones that plague our own lives.
The most damaging consequence of such a human behavior is when a wrongdoing is falsely attributed to an innocent person.
If a neighbor has wronged us in some way, Jesus wants us to give that neighbor a chance to recognize his/her wrongdoing and make a change. Instead of destroying his name and reputation, Jesus teaches us today to be compassionate as our heavenly father is compassionate to our own wrongdoings. Go to your erring brother and with charity point out to him something in his conduct which is not proper for a Christian. We cannot remain indifferent nor tolerate the wrongdoings of others. Fraternal correction is most often the most neglected duty. Try to ask yourselves when was the last time that you have corrected an erring brother, a friend or a member of the family, or a confrere in a religious community? Is it not that most often we do not have the courage to approach an erring brother and tell him of his faults. We would rather comment behind our brother's back on his wrongdoings.
One more important point - if you are not willing to accept correction from others, then never attempt to correct others. Fraternal correction is a two-way street. I am willing to correct other out of charity and I too am willing to be corrected.
Fraternal correction is always possible if we are willing to understand with humility and compassion the shortcomings of others. Jesus never condemned sinners, he never talked behind their backs about their sins. He always gave them chances to repent—a way to build people, and not to destroy them!
Jer 20:7-9/Ps 63:2. 3-4. 5-6. 8-9/ Rom 12:1-2/ Mt 16:21-27
Last Sunday we read of Simon Peter recognizing and professing Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of the living God. That earned him the name Peter, and the keys of the Kingdom. The incident was a highpoint in the development of the mission of Christ. “From that time on, Jesus began to show to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Mt 16:21)
Popular Jewish belief in the time of Jesus expected a Messiah who would bring instant glory to Israel in terms of military success, wealth and prosperity. The disciples shared this belief. So when Peter heard the Lord announces that he must first endure the cross, he figured that Jesus made a mistake. “So he took Jesus aside and rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord. This must not happen to you (22). Peter can’t accept the idea that the Messiah will be humiliated. Quite the contrary, he will humiliate all the enemies of Israel.
Peter was asking the Lord to abandon the hard way of the Messiah for the easy way of the world—all crown without the cross.
Although the Lord has called Peter the Rock a few moments back, he now looks at Peter and says to him, “Get behind me Satan!”
Jesus summarizes Peter’s whole problem in one sentence: You are not by God’s standard but by man’s: Man’s standard: be comfortable, seek security and enjoy life (all crown/no cross). Christ’s standard: endure tour cross first (no cross / no crown)
-The gospel of Christ is a coin with two sides: CROSS AND CROWN – both have to be embraced.
-to carry the cross does not mean fatalism. It does not mean that we should accept our fate and not improve our lot. Anything that makes life convenient is most welcomed and should be encouraged
Today’s gospel challenges us to say NO to the very attractive but one-sided worldly gospel of the INSTANT GLORY – the sugar coated gospel that offers false promise of NO CROSS ALL CROWN
2 kinds of sufferings:
- unnecessary-the suffering I bring upon myself through my own neglect/stupidity
(inflicted by myself or others)
- necessary – suffering involved in growing up. Admitting mistakes, struggling against a problem, accepting reality, giving up a vice or addiction.
True wisdom recognizes one from the other and humbly accepting necessary sufferings and avoiding what is unnecessary.
Always remember: Christ did not come to wipe out our tears but to make our tears holy.