Matthew 18:21-35 – the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for September 11, 2011
“. . . how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” (Matthew 18:21)
In Matthew 18:21, the disciple Peter ponders forgiving another seven times. In Matthew 18:22*, Jesus challenged Peter—and therefore us—to forgive seventy-seven times.
Ah-oh. Note the asterisk by 22. Don’t race to the bottom of these words to find what it refers to . . . I’ll deal with it now. Almost every Bible has a footnote or asterisk linked to Matthew 18:22 because different ancient manuscripts, and different ways of interpreting Greek, lead to a different number. Instead of forgiving another seventy-seven times, Jesus may have exhorted Peter to forgive seven times seventy. Gulp. Take a breath. Now do the math. How many times should I be prepared to declare, “I forgive you?”
7 x 70 = 490
10 down, 480 to go.
Jesus must have been kidding, right? He exaggerated, used hyperbole. It’s all about shock value.
In the faithful mathematics of forgiveness, whether the answer to Peter’s question is 77 or 490, there’s always a crucial, single number at the start . . .
Me. You. One nation. A corporation. Every giving or receiving of forgiveness will begin because an individual or an institution steps forward and truthfully says, “I forgive you.”
And yet, if one person doesn’t begin . . . Continue reading →