Seven or seventy seven? Is there a magical number?-Tuesday,3rd Week of Lent – Matthew 18: 21-35
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 mouth. On this occasion, he sought to push himself to a new limit of giving, perhaps in the hope of winning the Lords 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? errrrr….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.
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