August 16, 2012 - Thursday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Ezekiel 12:1-2
Psalm 78:56-59, 61-62
Matthew 18:21-19:1

There is some disagreement about whether Jesus says here “seventy-seven times” or “seventy times seven”. Either way it is a big number that means more. Whether it is 77 or 490, it means “lots of times”. Or, to apply Jesus’ other teaching about doing unto others as we would have them do to us, how many times would you like to be forgiven? If there were a limit on the number of times that we could be forgiven, this world would be worse than it is. Yet many people think that there is such a limit. They think that they have done wrong so many times that God could no longer forgive them. Balderdash! God is never going to stop loving us. He is never going to stop forgiving us, so long as we never stop repenting.

I wonder what would have happened if the servant in the Gospel today had asked for forgiveness at the end. After having been forgiven once, then treating the other servant cruelly, then standing before his master again, what if he had once again begged forgiveness? I think he would have been forgiven.

There is another interpretation to this story though. Perhaps the servant stands in place of a soul who has died. He goes to heaven and sees the full weight of his sins, and God forgives every one of them. Then he gets into heaven and treats the other servant badly. This could be a cautionary tale telling us why universal salvation is impossible. Some people have hopes that God will just forgive everyone their sins and let everyone into heaven, but if he did that, we would have people like the servant today going around and choking other people. In other words, some people would ruin heaven if they got in.

No, this life is our chance for forgiveness. There is no limit on the number, but there is an end to the time. It is an all-you-can-eat buffet, but when the restaurant closes dinner is over. God will forgive us all of our sins, no matter what, but only if we repent. And we do not know when our closing-time is, so “later” might be too late. The time for repentance is right now, this moment. Let nothing prevent you from repenting. Even if we cannot get to Confession right away, we should repent as soon as we recognize our sin. We must not delay in the slightest.