GO AROUND FORGIVING
Jesus’ disciples have heard him say incredible things about loving enemies, praying to the Father for those who persecute them, forgiving those who do them harm. Surely this seems to them to be an extraordinary message, but hardly realistic and definitely problematic.
Peter now approaches Jesus with a more practical and concrete suggestion that lets them at least resolve the problems that arise among them: resentment, jealousy, arguments and conflicts. How should that family of followers act who walk in his footsteps? Concretely: «How often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me?».
Before Jesus answers him, the impetuous Peter jumps in to give his own suggestion: «As often as seven times?». His proposal is one of a generosity much superior to the avenging atmosphere that breathes in Jewish society. It goes way beyond even what is practiced among rabbis and the Essenes, who at the most talk about forgiving up to four times.
However Peter is moving on the plane of Jewish casuistry, where forgiveness is prescribed as a friendly rule that helps guarantee the orderly functioning of living together among those who belong to the same group.
Jesus’ answer forces us to be in a whole other ballpark. There are no limits to forgiveness: «Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times». It’s no use keeping track of how many times I’ve forgiven. Anyone who starts counting how many times he’s forgiving his brother is embarking on an absurd path that ruins the spirit that should reign among Jesus’ followers.
The Jews knew of the «Song of Vengeance» by Lamech, a legendary desert hero, that goes: «Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech will be avenged seventy times seven times». In the face of this culture of vengeance without limits, Jesus proposes forgiveness without limits among his followers.
Different stances about the Council have provoked conflicts and arguments within the Church, sometimes all too painful. Lack of mutual respect, insults and calumny take place frequently. Without anyone discrediting them, groups that call themselves Christian take advantage of the Internet to sow agressiveness and hate, heartlessly destroying other believers’ name and reputation.
We urgently need witnesses of Jesus who announce his Gospel with firm words and who spread his peace with humble hearts. Believers who go around forgiving and healing this unhealthy obstinacy that has penetrated the Church.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf