Reflection on Sunday Mass Readings

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Sunday 13th of September 2020

The readings this weekend are about forgiveness. There is a warning and a reassurance. The warning is sharp. In the First Reading we are told: ‘He who exacts vengeance will experience the vengeance of the Lord.’ The parable in the Gospel has the same strong message.

But it is in the Gospel that we find an extraordinary reassurance. Forgiveness, for us and for God, has no limits. Peter thought he would be doing well if he could forgive his brother seven times. ‘Not enough’, said Jesus, ‘Try seventy times seven times’. In the Old Testament, seven was a perfect number. Seven multiplied by seven (49) was an even more perfect number, and already in the Old Testament it was associated with forgiveness. After every 49 years there was a year of Jubilee, when prisoners were released and debts were forgiven — it was a year of total amnesty, bigger even than the Good Friday Agreement! Seventy times seven times is 490 — 49 multiplied by 10. So if 49 is equivalent to total amnesty, seventy times seven times is Total Amnesty multiplied by ten: infinite forgiveness— forgiveness without limit.