Mature Faith as Fidelity and Forgiveness:

(Dan 3:25-43; Ps 25; Mt 18:21-35)


Do you find it hard to trust in God and to forgive?

Both readings today take us to the core of the gospel, which is mature faith as fidelity and forgiveness. We are invited to trust in God and learn to forgive.

In the first reading from the book of Daniel, Azariah is an amazing model of faith when all is stripped away. Condemned to death by fire, he nevertheless offers up a prayer of trust in God and love for God’s people who have fallen into sin and infidelity. In this he is very much like Job who refused to curse God when misfortune fell on him, and a prefiguring of Jesus on the Cross who forgave those who were crucifying him.

The Gospel, on the other hand, presents us with Peter’s dilemma – how often should we forgive those who hurt us? Peter thinks his suggestion of seven times is rather generous, and for most people it would be.

Jesus is quick to set him straight with a number, seventy-seven, that carries an important message – we are to become forgiveness. Three plus four, perfect numbers, equals seven, perfect number, times ten, perfect number, equals seventy, perfect number, plus three plus four, perfect numbers, equals seventy-seven, the most perfect number of all in the Hebrew scriptures.

That number signifies perfection and infinity. By contrast, the number sixty-six is the weakest of all numbers, because it never made it to seventy-seven. And the number 666 is the weakest number of all, signifying Satan, who is a nobody, already defeated, although still waging battle and doing harm. A mosaic by the late Fr. Al Hubenig OMI on a tabernacle in the Star of the North upper chapel starkly illustrates this reality. It portrays a lamb (Jesus) holding a victorious standard, but with blood pouring out of its chest, standing over a skeleton (Satan) lying flat on the ground but swinging a sword.

What Jesus is telling Peter here about forgiveness and mature Christian discipleship is that if Peter wants to follow him, he can’t just forgive once in a while. He must become like Jesus, who is forgiveness. Forgiveness must ooze out of Peter, and become his DNA. It is what it means to be a Christian.

Jesus then recounts the parable of a forgiven yet unforgiving servant to underline this point, and follows that story with what could be seen as another commandment – we must forgive from the heart all those who have hurt us in any way.

Adelaida Rosado was an eighty-year-old New York City woman who visited her son John in the Elmira Correctional Facility every week for 18 years. She left her apartment by taxi at 1 am to catch a shuttle to the prison that left at 2 am. Door-to-door the round trip took 18-20 hours. She missed only 3 weeks over a period of 18 years. John committed horrific crimes and was called “the devil incarnate” by the sentencing judge. At the prison, she bought his favorite foods from the vending machines, wiped a Formica counter clean and waited. When he finally appeared, her eyes filled with tears and so did his. When interviewed by Time magazine, Adelaida said. “I’m his mother. This is what a mother does.” John said, “You know what, I can’t lie. I did some terrible things and I deserve to be here. I put myself in prison, and I will likely die here.” His mother, who amazes him, is all he has. “Her love transcends whatever obstacle I’ve thrown in front of her,” he concluded. That is mature discipleship as trust in God and becoming forgiveness.

The Eucharist is itself an experience of God’s forgiveness through word and sacrament. We are accepted as we are, forgiven by our God who never tires of forgiving, and healed by God’s unconditional love.

We are then commissioned to be trustworthy servants, to go out and forgive others who have hurt us, as we have been forgiven.


Updated: March 14, 2023 — 3:02 am

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