March 17, 2020
by Luis Rodriguez, S.J.
Creighton University's Jesuit Community
click here for photo and information about the writer

Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent
Lectionary: 238

Daniel 3:25, 34-43
Psalms 25: 4-5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8-9
Matthew 18:21-35

Praying Lent Home

Praying in the Time of the Virus

Lent for the Older Brother/Sister
of the Prodigal Son/Daughter

Returning to the Sacrament of Reconciliation

Although today’s gospel reading says not seven times, but seventy times, some manuscripts of the same passage read not seven times, but seventy times seven times. In the 1960s a new German movie had the initially intriguing title 491, which was based precisely on the above variance of today’s gospel reading. According to that variance, one must forgive 70x7= 490 times. So, if someone offends me for the 491st time, am I off the hook? Number games is not the point of the passage. Both 70 and 70x7 convey rather the idea of as many times as needed.

Forgiveness is humanly difficult, because something in us has been hurt or even destroyed. Trying to reason ourselves into forgiving will not work, because reasoning addresses the head, whereas the difficulty in forgiving comes from the heart and we cannot give head answers to heart questions. The only solid ground in faith is the awareness of our having been forgiven first and this is what today’s parable of the unforgiving debtor addresses. Not only have we been forgiven a great offense or great offenses, but God’s forgiveness continues to be at work even now, because all things, even past things, are present to God now. What to us is a past offense is present to God today and it continues to be forgiven now. This awareness has to be a sustained attitude in our lives, not something we can improvise ad hoc.

The gospel reading provides also a paradigmatic shift, a shift in our own focus away from ourselves, since the offender is also hurting him/herself. In the gospel reading Peter’s focus was too self-centered: if my brother sins against me. When from the cross Jesus says Father forgive them..., he is taking the focus away from his own suffering.

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