by Fr D. Ntshangase
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Last Sunday we were reminded about our Christian duty and responsibility to correct our brothers and sisters when they do something wrong. Today’s readings, and especially the Gospel, speak of forgiveness. In the Gospel Peter appears to be asking a practical question. He is imagining a situation where a member of the Christian community repeatedly offended someone. As a follower of Christ, he first forgives the offender but his forgiveness is not at all met by effective repentance. The offender continues to offend him. Peter’s concern is practical in human terms but the whole Gospel passage is rather spiritual or theological. It puts forward the facts that forgiveness has no limits and that it takes faith.
Peter thinks he is generous enough when he forgives seven times. Most of us, Christians, would probably forgive three times and think we are generous enough. However, the number “seven” has a biblical symbolism. Seven symbolises perfection and completeness. Moreover, the use of this number gives Jesus an opportunity to catechise Peter that forgiveness has no limits. He does this by using another number “seventy-seven” times. This reminds us of the avengement of Lamech in Genesis 4:24, “if Cain if avenged sevenfold then truly Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”
Yes, forgiveness has no limits and the forgiving numbers do not matter. Jesus wants full commitment from us for forgive. Jesus, today, gives us an opportunity to go to our brothers and sisters within and outside our Christian community and assure them of our forgiveness. Some of us are not in good terms, we cannot even share and show the sign of peace to one another in the same Eucharistic celebration because we offended each other and we still fail to forgive each other. Go and do your Christian duty now, reconcile with your brother or sister.
Forgiveness takes faith. It takes faith for you believe that peace will eventually come to your troubled and heavy heart when you have forgiven the brother or sister that has offended you. It takes faith that forgiveness alone can change the situation you are in with your offender and even if it does not change anything you would have forgiven anyway, there would be nothing to lose but a peace of mind and an eternal life to gain. You can forgive even while you are still waiting for the change that you need to see and experience. Remember, Jesus did not wait for the resurrection to forgive the Roman soldiers who killed him (Luke 23:34).