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Twenty-Fourth Sunday of the Year

Seventy-seven times

It is not always easy to say one is sorry and it is even harder to ask for forgiveness. There is no doubt that there is great value in saying sorry to someone whom you have offended in much the same way as there is value in asking for forgiveness.

We heard last week that if your brother did you something, then go and have it out with him alone. Jesus told us of three ways to bring about healing in our broken relationships. We have now what we might want to call a second installment, a reminder of what is required of us in trying to bring about healing in our broken relationships.

Today many people are so caught up in their own little worlds, trying to see how much they can achieve in life. People have their own agendas which do not necessarily involve much concern for other people and even less about other people's feelings. With all that's going on in the world, there seems to be an even greater need for finding ways of diffusing tension and animosity between people and nations. The Church has to play a major role in this as it seeks to bring about the healing and peace that are needed in our world.

The message for us today is pretty clear and very necessary. The message we have to hear and preach is one of forgiveness. When Peter asked how many times he should forgive his brother, Jesus answered him saying that he should forgive his brother seventy-seven times. It is not an easy thing to do to even forgive once, but Jesus tells us that we should be prepared to forgive as often as is necessary.

If we are to survive any relationship, be it on an individual basis or even at a communal level, we must be prepared to forgive those who do us wrong. There can be no limit to our forgiveness, even when it seems most difficult to do.

Saying sorry or asking for forgiveness is not a sign of weakness, as some people might think. What it proves or shows is a willingness to make right what has gone wrong. I have found such a release when I have taken the time to say I am sorry for a wrong done to someone. How much better I feel knowing that when I sin and I ask God's forgiveness that God will forgive me. It feels as if some great burden has been lifted from my shoulder and I feel whole again.

What we are being led to see is that we have to be forgiving of each other in as much the same way that we would want God to forgive us when we sin. We surely cannot expect God to be merciful to us if we ourselves cannot show mercy to those who wrong us. God will forgive us when we sin even if we commit the same sin every time. So it is not merely about how much we are willing to forgive but, just as God does not place limits on the forgiveness he will give us, we also cannot expect to place limits on each other.

In the end what we are to recognize is that God is indeed a merciful God and is prepared to forgive us our sins even if we sin seventy-seven times. In our own forgiving of people we cannot set limits on our willingness to forgive but we must try to be merciful and forgiving as God is. In giving forgiveness we bring about reconciliation not only between individuals but also at a community level. The object is to bring about the kind of relationships that reflect the kingdom of God.

So how many times should we seek to forgive someone who has done us wrong? Jesus tells us that there should be no limit on our forgiveness, not in number or quality. No doubt we are being asked to do something that is difficult but not impossible. Still, if we want to experience the mercy of God, we must be prepared to share that mercy with the people who offend us. If we want to be forgiven, then we must be prepared to do the same.

A timely reminder for today which we are encouraged to put into practice; the effect can only be good in bringing about healing between individuals, communities and even countries.

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