– Tuesday of the 3rd Week of Lent –
Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.’ [Matthew 18:21-22]
There is something unexpected in this translation: the reference to ‘church’ in the opening line. It reminds us that Matthew is writing for a particular audience – the newly formed Christian community of predominantly Greek-speaking converts. As with any community, there were inevitably tensions. A fundamental problem was their relationship with the Jewish religion and its practices. For Jewish members of the community, the pressure was enormous. On the one hand, they would have wanted to remain true to their roots. On the other, at times the Jewish authorities were making their lives very difficult because of their unwillingness to renounce their adherence to the teachings of Jesus.
Any new movement seeking to forge its way forward is going to experience difficulties. Things will be said, and actions and words will be misinterpreted. It requires a lot of patience. To put it simply: there is to be no limitation placed on our forgiveness of one another, and having been the recipients of forgiveness ourselves, we are to show it to others.
The early Church was not alone in experiencing tensions. In almost every age, there has been something to be concerned about. There are many today who have mixed feelings when thinking about the Church to which we belong. We stay with the Church because it is Christ’s Body and we cannot imagine ever leaving it. However, in light of our role as priests, prophets and kings (see yesterday’s reflection), we should feel able to say whatever needs to be said in response to those things that concern us.
But do we?
By Shane Dwyer