Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 17, 2023
Today’s Gospel story is a favorite of mine. It’s a parable about forgiveness, but what I like is Peter’s question to Christ before the parable. You remember the question I’m sure: “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus, of course, goes on to reply, “not seven times but seventy-seven times.”
Father Raymond Brown, the late American Scripture scholar, once commented on this exchange between Peter and Jesus. He observed that we perhaps are quick to criticize Peter for his stinginess in forgiving. What, only seven times, Peter? Fr. Brown suggests that we all must examine our conscience. How often would you or I forgive an offense from the same person? I know that I would take all the pleasure and all the credit I could get from graciously forgiving that first offense. And when my brother offended me a second time, I sure would lay it on thick as I grudgingly forgave a second time.
But would I even entertain a third request for forgiveness? By then, I suspect I wouldn’t even be speaking to my brother! Instead, I’d be telling everyone else how injured I was by such an ungrateful person whom I’ve deigned to forgive twice before! And what’s that Jesus? Did you really say 77 times?