Since this week’s gospel is a continuation of last week’s gospel I invite you to read once again my homily from last week. You can do that by clicking on A Cycle Homilies on the menu bar above and scroll down the list to the “A Cycle 23nd Sunday in Ordinary Time 17” and click on that link.
Now that you are back let me continue with the need for us to forgive and difficulty we have in forgiving.
Peter is struggling with the human difficulty we all have to forgive someone who has hurt us. I also believe he is reflecting on the challenge to forgive knowing the response of the person will most likely be to deny having caused us any pain at all. His desire is to be obedient to this basic requirement of being a faithful Christian but he knows there are obstacles to overcome if we are to do this very basic demand of our faith.
Peter knows the first obstacle is our desire for retribution, for justice, for the person to come begging for forgiveness and acknowledging their wrong. Peter also heard Jesus as he told him “before you bring your gift to the altar go and be reconciled with your brother” so he knows his own reluctance to forgive but more than that he knows if the sin he as to forgive was committed by his brother it has further challenges. The biggest challenge is that his brother will not acknowledge his offense.
So he knows this forgiveness issue will not be resolved the first time he sits down to discuss this with his brother. So the question he poses to Jesus is a logical one and not a “semi sarcastic question. At the heart of the question is the desire to get this forgiveness thing over with and once we forgave then we can just get on with our life as before. The problem is we can say the words but the hurt and pan remains – so we truly have not let go and forgiveness was an act of obedience not an act of forgiveness.
Peter understanding this says how many times will it take before I truly forgive – 7 times? Jesus in responding tells us the demands of discipleship go far beyond our human ability to give. No Peter, 490 times, 7 times 70 times, each time, every time until the forgiveness comes from your heart not from your obedience to me.
Remember the words of Jesus – “…unless you forgive with your heart…” and we cannot do that until we embrace discipleship by acknowledging Jesus as Lord and Savior.
The message is it takes more to be Christian than just showing up on Sunday and doing some corporal and spiritual works of mercy. That is the easy part of believing. What is hard is following Jesus and allowing the Holy Spirit to transform us into the people who love the Lord with our whole hearts, minds, strength and soul.”