Daily Reflection
August 16th, 2007

Robert P. Heaney

Creighton University Professor Chair
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“Not seven times, but seventy times seven times . . .”

In other words, without limit. Why? Well, because Jesus says so – a pretty good reason even if we just stop there. But Jesus goes on to spell out the reason in the parable of the man who was forgiven a great debt, but then turned around and refused to forgive his fellow servant.

We must forgive, first, because we have been forgiven. Christian ethics has been well characterized as a “therefore” ethics. God has done this; therefore we must do likewise (out of sheer gratitude if for no other reason). Christian ethics is not based in philosophy or abstract concepts; it is based in an action – God’s saving action. We can never afford to lose sight of God’s action – God’s prior reaching out to us.

But there is a second reason for his limitless forgiving. God’s purpose is to save everyone. As Christians we explicitly take that mission as our own, and we are empowered to do so by our baptism. (After all, as St. Paul says, in Baptism we have died with Christ. The new life we live is precisely His life, His spirit, living in us.) The person who has offended us is already forgiven by God. How, then, can we withhold our own forgiveness? In other words, how can we do so and call ourselves Christian? When we forgive, we simply make God’s prior forgiveness concrete here and now. Probably the offender did not expect us to be forgiving. Perhaps we help the offender experience God’s forgiveness in our own. Perhaps we call both of us to a change of heart.

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