Jesus fulfills the law and the prophets. That is why he corrects Peter and says that we have to forgive seventy times seven.
We say, “Three strikes and you are out,” though we hear, too, “One is enough, two is too much.” So, seven is not a mean thing. If it seems so, it is because we see it in the light of seventy times seven.
The truth is, seven, which shows up in the Bible more than 700 times, means fullness. But Jesus brings in the kingdom of God and his justice. And so, he turns down seven; he goes for seventy times seven.
So, he goes past what people take as fullness. He, of course, also goes past the justice of those who are most just in the eyes of men. And it cannot be any other way, for the new that he brings in asks for it.
Yes, to live in the new order means to forgive seventy times seven or seventy-seven times. But be it seventy times seven or seventy-seven times, it means the same. For the span of our life is seventy years or eighty, if we are strong (Ps 90, 10). Just the same, then, what we are told is to forgive as long as we live.
Those who do not forgive seventy times seven do not live.
So, to live is to forgive. That is to say, if we do not forgive, life is not worth it. If we do not forgive, our life would be as though handed over to the torturers.
In the first place, what torment and anguish we would go through were God not to forgive us, should he keep wrath always. But then it could not be that he would torment us. Nay, we would torment ourselves as we see how helpless we are. That is to say, with no hope of a stronger one to bail us out and to raise us up to a new life.
In the second place, there is no bliss if we do not forgive, if we keep count of wrongs. To quote José Antonio Pagola: “A couple breaks up without mutual understanding; a family becomes hell without forgiveness. Society turns less than human if there is no compassion.”
No, Jesus does not want us to be less than human. And that is why he seeks to get rid of Lamech’s project. Of the line of Cain, he swears to take revenge seventy times seven (Gen 4, 24). But what he plans to do will not bring peace.
So, Jesus seeks the opposite as he works on the project of the kingdom of God. He lives to forgive to the end. For he gives his body up and sheds his blood for us so that sins may be forgiven. And his blood cries out louder than that of Abel and brings peace (Heb 12, 24; Eph 2, 14).
Lord Jesus, grant us to live and die for you, and to forgive seventy times seven. We will thus be of one heart and mind even more. For to forgive one another is to preserve union (SV.EN IX:87).
13 September 2020
24th Sunday in O.T. (A)
Sir 27, 30 – 28, 7; Rom 14, 7-9; Mt 18, 21-35