Jesus tells a delicious parable at Mass tomorrow. Fifteen verses are more than you care to read or that I might care to cut and paste into this post, but you all know what I’m talking about. Read up on it here.
Peter presents the question we’ve heard before, but one we all want to ask. We want to be relieved, some of us, of the burden and demand of forgiving people who repeatedly offend us. The question and answer are rather straightforward:
Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive him?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
In addition to giving us a real encounter with the Lord, Peter is also something of a symbol for all of us. “My sister sinned against me. I mean: she really sinned. What are you going to do about it, Lord?” And Jesus will tell us the same thing he said in the parable:
Moved with compassion the master of that servant
let him go and forgave him the loan.
The act of mercy didn’t quite sink in. Another person in debt to the servant is treated harshly. Have you ever noticed that it is the others in the community who bring this to the master’s attention?
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened,
they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master
and reported the whole affair.
Serious sin disturbs other people. That’s why conspiracy and fraud are so damaging to the public trust: we call to mind the possibility that if a public leader, a parent, or a bishop has behaved badly toward someone, what if it happened to more people? And more so, God gets truly angry with hypocrites:
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives your brother (or sister) from your heart.
Learn mercy from God–this is what Jesus seems to be saying. We are offered a lot of lessons in the life of faith. It would seem that being able to offer forgiveness and reconciliation to others is part of our own healing process. We can rightly ask if we’ve truly experienced deep reconciliation, deep conversion, if we stand ready to hammer a sister or brother for something they have done to us.