Last Sunday’s readings reminded us of the responsibility we have to those we hurt and those who hurt us. No effort is to be spared in the pursuit of reconciliation and forgiveness. All three readings this Sunday, especially the gospel continue this message and make this point very clearly.
While naming and highlighting all the negative things that lead to sin and division, the first reading also tells us to, ‘forgive your neighbour the hurt that is done to you….’ do not bear your neighbour ill-will.’ The second reading puts our relationship and connection with each other very plainly; the life and death of each of us has its influence on others…’ What I say, how I speak and how I treat others have the power to build them up or tear them down. Our words and our actions can sometimes be weapons of mass destruction. The choice is ours, as to how we treat others.
Peter is the one who in the gospel asks Jesus, ‘Lord, how often must I forgive my neighbour if they wrong me? As often as seven times? Jesus replies without any hesitation, ‘Not seven times I tell you, but seventy-seven times. In this answer, Jesus is not giving us a number of times that we are to forgive others. At the time of Jesus the phrase seventy-seven times meant without end. So Jesus is telling Peter and us today that there is to be no end to our forgiving of others. For the Christian, forgiveness is not something that is done occasionally; it is to be part of our lives and a way of living.
As God freely forgives us, we are called, difficult as it maybe to forgive those who have hurt us. Jesus uses the story of the ungrateful servant to highlight this. The king is freely gracious in his forgiveness of his servant. This same servant behaved in completely the opposite way. He is hard and unforgiving with another servant who is in debt to him.
Hard as this may be for us, we are asked to try to be as forgiving as the king in the gospel is, and not to be cold and hard-hearted like the servant.
God does not forgive us once; we are continually forgiven in and through Jesus. We need to develop a relationship with God that teaches us that God loves us as we are; as sinners. We are loved sinners. Hopefully we will come to realise and appreciate that faith is not just about teaching us how to live; faith is about teaching us how to live again, and again and again.