Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive?
As many as seven times?
Jesus answered, I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
What an interesting reading to have had on September 11th. I think it’s so hard for us to even forgive the little things that happen in our personal lives. So then to be expected to forgive something as greivous as terrorist attacks on our country is really grasping for the impossible, it would seem.
The Church didn’t pull any dirty tricks putting this reading out there for Sunday. That’s what’s in the Lectionary for the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, cycle A. It just so happens that corresponded to September 11th this year. But still in all, I don’t believe in coincidence; I believe in the work of the Holy Spirit who is clearly speaking, yelling to us in these readings!
Forgiveness was the major theme of Jesus’ ministry and mission, and so it has to be ours too. We must forgive each other from our hearts for the small and petty, and even for the ghastly and unconscionable. Have I done this yet? I’d have to say no. But the solution isn’t to abandon the pursuit of it as pie-in-the-sky. The solution is to take up the cross and forgive.
For truly “The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion,” as the psalmist says. And we are expected to do likewise, lest we suffer the fate of the unforgiving servant in the Gospel reading. We, like him, are expected to forgive our brothers and sisters from our hearts.