From the Pastor – September 17, 2017

visit masstime.usPeter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive?  As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.” (Mt. 18:21-22)

When I was younger, my sisters and brother and I had a lot of little “family” jokes and expressions.  Sometimes when we’re together again, we use them to get a laugh.  In our teenage years those “inside jokes” tended to revolve around quotes from television shows or movies that we found funny.  Most of can do imitations of Eddie Murphy’s more memorable gags or lines uttered by Bill Murray in “Caddyshack” or “Stripes.”  But one of the older expressions I remember when I was very young was “seventy-eleven.”  Of course, it’s not an actual number, but it was used to express the hugest number possible.  Millions and billions (or even googles) weren’t real to us.  But “seventy-eleven” sounded really big.  So if we were going to use a number that Jesus would give in telling us how many times to forgive, we would say “forgive ‘seventy-eleven’ times.”

In the Gospel today, Jesus says “forgive seven times seventy-seven” times.  That’s a lot, but it’s a finite number.  In fact, it only adds up to 539.  If that were the case, we’d have to carry calculators around to make sure we were keeping track as to how many times we’d forgiven.  I would bet that most couples who’ve been married more than 20 years could say they’ve forgiven their spouses more than 539 times.  And then they kept forgiving beyond that.  Seven was used by Peter to indicate a constant stream of forgiveness.  Jesus took that number and put it off the charts.    We’re supposed to keep forgiving primarily because God continues to forgive us.  And most of us have offended Him more than 539 times.

This is a good weekend to remind ourselves that we should forgive.  As we recall the 9/11 attacks on our country, we might be tempted to relive those feelings of vengeance and that desire for justice ten years ago.  Although demands for justice are not necessarily wrong, we should look back on the last ten years and realize that holding on to hatred, vengeance and “debts” tends to hurt us more than it hurts the people we “hate.”

If we’ve gotten over our “hatred” for those terrorists who attacked us, we might want to look around at other “grudges” we’re holding on to, perhaps even within our own families.  Maybe there’s someone we need to forgive for the “seventy-eleventh” time.
(Rev. Msgr.) Christopher H. Nalty