Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?”Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.“ For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made.
So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place.
Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
I remember hearing this Gospel as a child and asking, “What happens if someone does something mean 78 times?” My mother, used to my very literal questions, gently told me I was missing the point. The point is to keep forgiving! When the number seven is used in Scripture, it represents completion or fullness. Forgiving 77 times seems both like overkill, as well as something to aspire to that will never be finished.
I’m reminded of the people in our lives that we need to forgive over and over. After a certain number of forgivable moments, hopefully we are finding ways to have conversations to amend behavior or setting appropriate boundaries. However, the person I never run out of opportunities to forgive is myself. We can be our own worst critics, unwilling to let go of our own mistakes and sins. In our lack of self-forgiveness, we miss the opportunity to experience God’s love in its depth. In the first week of the Spiritual Exercises, a person focuses on being a loved sinner; someone who encounters their brokenness and yet comes to know God’s full and complete love.
Today, find a moment to name something God has already forgiven, but you have not yet let go. Allow yourself to savor God’s love and grace.
—Lauren Schwer is the Associate Director of Campus Ministry at Loyola University Chicago.
Grandparenting God, you see our sin as symptomatic stutter, self-effacing struggle to ignore the confounding reality of your willful vulnerability: “I love you because I can’t do anything else. I made you, every last part of you: all that’s hidden and all that’s revealed, all that’s muddled and even all that’s clear. You are, at the risk of repeating myself, dear to me. You are precious in my eyes because…just because you are mine. That’s enough for me and it will have to do for you. Wrestle with it until you get tired and then relax and give in. Take a deep breath and enjoy.”
—Michael Moynahan, SJ
Please share the Good Word with your friends!