Tuesday of the third week of Lent
Reading 1 Dn 3:25, 34-43
Gospel Mt 18:21-35
"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 from your heart."
"Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?"
Peter's question on forgiveness led to the parable of the unforgiving steward and its stern warning at the end. I must admit that there are times that I've found Peter's offering of seven times to be actually generous. Sometimes even once is hard.
Shaquille O'Neal has told a story that Miami Heat Coach Pat Riley once held his breath in a bucket of water for 8 minutes in a motivational demonstration. Fantastic it may be but in reality it is child's play.
Let me ask this question: how long can you hold a grudge? I salute you if your answer ends in 'minutes' or even 'hour's. We are capable of holding grudges for days, weeks, months, years, decades or even more tragically, lifetimes.
Peter, perhaps felt especially benevolent, in offering forgiveness seven times, after all, Jewish rabbis at the time taught that forgiving someone was limited to three times, citing Amos 1:3-13 where God forgave Israel’s enemies three times, then punished them. Three strikes and you're out. So Peter was offering forgiveness more than double that of the Old Testament example.
There for when Jesus responded that forgiveness should be offered far beyond that which Peter was proposing to 'seventy times seven', it must have stunned the disciples who were listening. Jesus used the opportunity to teach them that they were still thinking in the terms of the limits of the law and not in the terms of unlimited grace.
I admit it's a hard lesson and for this deacon it is 'back to the drawing board', but isn't that the purpose of Lent?
The cross becomes heavier with each step in this Lenten journey but if Jesus did it then we must also. Lord I pray for the grace of not only seven times but seventy times seven. Peace.
The Season of Lent is a special time for us to slow down, look inward and make the necessary changes to truly become an Easter people.