"How often must I forgive?"
Today we are painfully reminded it has been ten years since that terrible day when passenger jets, hijacked by radical terrorists crashed into New York’s Twin Towers, causing them to collapse, another crashed in a field in western Pennsylvania, and yet another jet breached the walls of the Pentagon in Washington.
Recalling the attack, the devastation, and the tragic loss of life, today’s gospel proclaims what we need to hear. It is a message of forgiveness.
Peter asks Jesus: "How often must I forgive? Seven times?" Back then, the rabbinical standard of forgiveness was three times. Seven being the sacred and complete number, perhaps Peter was asking whether there is to be some reasonable limit at which the need to forgive has been finally fulfilled and perfectly completed.
We cry out with the same question today. How often must we forgive? Is there not some reasonable limit to forgiveness? At what point may we finally say "enough; no more forgiveness"?
Jesus’ reply to Peter echoes across the ages. He speaks to us today. Not seven times; but 70 times. As long as it needs to be; there is no end point to forgiveness.
Does this sound radical, maybe even sacrificial? No doubt. Yet, that is the only way to breach the walls of anger and hatred.
Deacon Manuel Valencia is on the staff at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.