Seven or seventy seven? Is there a magical number?-3rd Week of Lent – Tuesday Matthew 18: 21-35

3rd Week of Lent – Tuesday
Matthew 18: 21-35
Seven or seventy seven? Is there a magical number?

Poor impetuous Peter, he did it again! It’s almost like he must say something at every occasion. But then again, it sounds like a lot of people we know. It would be hard to doubt the intentions of this good man who often shot his own mouth. On this occasion, he sought to push himself to a new limit of giving, perhaps in the hope of winning the Lord’s approval. It bombed again!

Rabbinical Judaism recommended that forgiveness be offered just thrice. Peter, who by now is quite accustomed to the Lord’s call to love more and give more, now more than doubles the Rabbis recommendations to forgive. Peter offers a perfect number, one more than the recommended double. Besides, seven was a perfect number for the Jews. Seven sounded like heaven! So how could the Lord not appreciate this magnanimous figure that outdid the Rabbis in the forgiveness of one’s brother? He surely had this one right? Errrr….wrong again!

Jesus outdoes ‘Petrine generosity’, hitting it out of the stadium to seventy seven times. This sounds very nice as a thought, but practically the thought of keeping such a count of forgiveness would be tedious, to say the least. So why does Jesus set this rather insane figure? Is there some magic in the number seventy times seven?

Jesus’ parables and teachings are filled with ‘extremes’. He is always asking the disciple for more. That is the heart of Christian discipleship; the teaching that St.Ignatius held close to him, ‘let’s give the Lord more (magis in Latin).’ So the call of Jesus to His disciples is to love more, give more and forgive more. This is encapsulated in the parable that Jesus proceeds to tell, to make clear His point; a parable of ‘exaggerated’ forgiveness.

For the sake of understanding the ‘exaggerations’ let’s look at what a talent is and how much the wicked servant owed his master. A “talent” is a measure of weight, close to about 59 kilograms. If the debt was in silver, it would be roughly equal to about 15 years’ worth of wages for the typical worker. The king in our parable is owed 10,000 talents, or about 1,50,000 years’ worth of income, which works out to more than 3,000 financial life sentences. This is no little debt!

On the other hand, the wicked servant was owed by a colleague a mere hundred denarii. A denarius (plural = denarii) is a small silver coin that was roughly the daily wage for the typical worker. The servant in our parable is owed 100 denarii. Now compare the two amounts; three months debt verse three thousand financial life times. Get the point?

So then, what makes the inability to forgive, such an issue in our lives? One issue is when we begin to tell ourselves, “enough is enough. I have forgiven this person thrice and everything has a limit.” We set limits because perhaps we don’t want to be vulnerable. And understandably so! But Jesus is making a bigger point. The Christian nature of forgiveness has no limit for a disciple.

The call of Jesus is a call to tear down the wall of limits. Vengeance prevents us from moving forward, for it simply adds to evil. Jesus wants us to understand that Christian forgiveness is an extravagant affair. The king forgives extravagantly so that we may forgive in the same measure; for this is the prayer we pray each day, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”

– Written on behalf of the Holy Spirit.
Fr Warner D’Souza may be contacted on whatsap on +91- 9820242151

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14 thoughts on “Seven or seventy seven? Is there a magical number?-3rd Week of Lent – Tuesday Matthew 18: 21-35”

  • In intense anger.i sometimes say..i will never forgive that person even if God comes fown personally and tells me to do so..
    Now i wonder what would i do ,after reading this..
    Cannot fathom how he had such a big heart..

  • Lord Jesus , Forgiveness can be one of the toughest things to do in life.  Wounds inflicted by others can pierce us deeply. Keep us mindful of your unconditional love for us so that We may be truly sorry for having offended you. As we remember your own willingness to forgive us of our failings, We ask for the inner strength to forgive those who wrong us, especially when it is most difficult.*

  • Lord give us the grace to forgive atleast seven times as we find it difficult to move from first hurt itself.
    Lord remind us to look at u on the cross when they crucified u for no fault of yours.
    Fr. Warner every article was simply touching and infilling. Thanks for all the trouble u r taking to guide our path right.

  • Have been a victim of unforgiveness and have been unforgiving myself…but yes we need to practice forgiveness no matter what…

  • The point of extravagance more particularly in carrying out our Christian duties is highlighted very well..Thank you Fr. Warner

  • Forgiveness is the key I feel for our inner peace and joy…. ! That’s what we are called to do, for God choosescto forgive each time we turn away from him.
    Thank you for this sharing Fr Warner 😃

  • So beautifully explained! Have heard the explanantion to this parable many times before….but this one touched my heart the most…probably becoz you explained the concept of talents and the comparison of how much the wicked servant owed compared to the king. And thats exactly how we too behave, receive soo much of mercy and forgiveness but when it comes to forgiving others we get calculative about everything. I pray that each one of us receives the grace to be merciful like the way he has always been merciful to us.

  • enough is enough. I have forgiven this person thrice and everything has a limit.” We set limits- this is what we do in our day to day life. When time comes to forigive one Shld set a limit. Forgive that person multiple times. Thanks fr warner for sharing and explained it very beautiful😊

  • STOP COUNTING ….. Lest I start weighing the scales … that’s the message loud and clear !

  • Nice Reflection Father,Nicely explained about forgiveness.Earlier I use to think why to forgive,Eventually that person will do it again and again and it is of no use.But the word of Jesus “Not seven but seventy seven time” and Our Father prayer gives me ability to forgive others.As Jesus has forgiven me,I have to forgive other and Just as Jesus is merciful,I have to be merciful to others.

  • Fr.Warner,a dear friend forwards ur articles on a daily basis.I cannot really define as to what degree ur lucidly written compositions hv enriched my life & my thought-process.I am like a cauldron where u the Druid,is marinating & mixing ur Divine Potions …..grateful for ur beautiful teachings.Pratip Mazumdar.

  • I must say it was hard to find your blog in search results.
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  • I agree father,
    I need help.. it is called forgiveness when I have started staying silent and not communicating to somone with whom I live with. Only in order to not be vunerable to pain and hurt again ?


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