24th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
Seven times seventy-seven times: Jackpot!
Jesus’ math concerning forgiveness is the Gospel antithesis to the spread of violence in Genesis after the first murder by Cain and the exponential of vengeance of Lamech.
“If Cain is avenged seven times, truly Lamech seventy-seven times.” Gn 4:24
Vengeance is a crude form of justice. On the cross Jesus will absorb the violence of sin and smother vengeance with an escalation of mercy. Forgiveness is more satisfying than vengeance because in practicing forgiveness God flows through us. By practicing vengeance death flows through us.
But forgiveness is only one of many interrelated parts of the whole web of mercy. Justice is forgiveness’ ally and underlines the value of things wounded. True mercy, or right relationship, harmonizes forgiveness and justice. Sometimes what you need to say is:
I forgive you, and you need to find another place to live.
I forgive you, and I am not lending you money anymore.
I forgive you, and this time I am charging you with assault.
When promoting the vocation to priesthood and I am asked: “How long does it take to become a priest?” I hear Peter’s concern about limits. I hear someone considering the cost of preparation to be a total disciple. Under this innocent query often lurks the ego virus that believes that “It doesn’t start until I am ordained.” Peter’s question about the limits of forgiveness and contemporary concerns about the length of seminary belies the doubt that God alone can really be enough for us.
Forgiving essentially means letting go of vengeance. Discipleship essentially means letting go of self-reliance. The more we develop our God-reliance our worry about limits dissolves exponentially. The result is a heart that can bear all things.
Fr. Mark Blom OMI Vocation Director
OMI Lacombe Canada