24th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2020-A
My brothers and sisters in the Lord!
It’s no doubt that we all probably take for granted that there are seven days in the week. I admit I am guilty of that because it seems after Sunday has come and gone Monday through Friday seems to disappear from me sooner than I expected. And yet no one really knows why there should be seven days. There are theories, of course, but none of them are certain. The seven day week seems to have been used throughout the Mediterranean area and on into India. Yet the fact of the seven day week seems to have suggested to the Jewish mind the idea of seven as a totality. In the Old Testament, the Jewish Scriptures, the creation takes place in seven days because this means that there was no moment of time in which God is not concerned with creation. In the New Testament, the Book of the Apocalypse the message is seven churches, because seven represent all the churches.
And so, when Peter suggests that we should forgive people if they sin against us “seven times”, he is not suggesting just a small number of totality, so Peter thinks that he is saying something profound about always forgiving. My brothers and sisters, we forgive while we live. And Christ replies by saying “ not seven, I tell you, but “seventy times seven.” This multiplication is because mercy is not just for this life, for the time we have, the time of seven days, but also for eternity. Eternity is unimaginable but we can think of it as time multiplied by time. So the Gospel story of the servant being led to judgement is our story, if because we do not forgive, how can we then enter the world of forgiveness, which is heaven?
Christian morality is the morality of heaven. We are not just concerned with how we live with each other in this world, but with the life of the world to come. The shape of this new world is determined by how we live in this world. It is present, too, in the sacraments, in prayer, in those moments of peace that only God can give. What really connects us to heaven is mercy. Nothing in Christian thought makes sense without the idea of the forgiveness of sin. The incarnation is for the sake of the forgiveness of sin.
The servant in the Gospel parable is asked to be like God to his fellow servant by forgiving them. It is not just God saying, “I forgave you, therefore you should forgive others”, but rather God saying, “I forgive all human beings, but I wish to forgive some of them through you. Their debt to you is yours and theirs, but the forgiveness is mine. God wants us to be ministers of that forgiveness.
In our world, politics, in essence, is the art of helping people live together; an d since all have sinned and owe each other debts that cannot be repaid, the work of politics should be seen as fundamentally a work of mercy and forgiveness . In offering mercy to the world, Christ has the key to every good thing in this world. Mercy is not just a medicine to cure the disease of our sin, but is the divine nature , in the particular situation of world in which we live. We may or may not remember our sins in heaven; but in the vision of God, we would see that mercy is natural to God, and know that God would always offer forgiveness without reservation. Yet there quite simply isn’t any forgiveness to those who do not forgive. That would be like trying to breathe in without breathing out.
And so brothers, and sisters, any theory of politics, or philosophy of life, which has no room for mercy has missed the point of life itself and the reason why God made us. Whatever we believe, we are living as God’s servants among fellow servants We are called to friendship with God, which is the fulfilment of service on earth, but we do not become friends with if we refuse to be friends with each other. Forgiveness cannot be forced on us. God offers it, and we are to offer it with God, but it must be accepted. No one will accept forgiveness who does not want to share it with others. So it is in forgiving that we are forgiven.