And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.” And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” (Luke 17:4-5)
When Jesus states that his disciples must be ready to forgive someone who wrongs them seven times in one day, their response is a request for an increase in their faith. I suspect that my response, perhaps yours as well, might have been something along the lines of “Get real!” Is it really humanly possible for one to be so forgiving? I suspect that most of us, me included, would assume that Jesus is asking much more of us than anyone could possibly imagine actually happening.
However, the thought has crossed my mind on more than one occasion, isn’t this exactly what God does with us. As a confessor, I am used to people saying to me, “Father, my intention is not to commit this sin again. However, every time I come to confession, I find myself having to confess the same sins over and over again.” Sound familiar?
No matter how many times we find ourselves failing, our faith tells us that God is ready to forgive. Pope Francis has said this over and over again. God is simply waiting to forgive us. Forgiving is what God does. God says as much in the Book of Exodus when passing by Moses who is sheltered in the cleft in the rock: So the LORD passed before him and proclaimed: The LORD, the LORD, a God gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love and fidelity, . . . (Exodus 34:6) Is it any wonder that God expects us to be as merciful? It is St. Matthew who follows up this particular incident with the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant and makes this exact point. If we expect God to forgive us over and over again, then we must forgive those who hurt us over and over again.
Like the disciples, let us pray for an increase in our faith to make this possible. After all, we pray every day of our lives: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator