Seventy times Seven

This is taken from the 24th Sunday in the Bible Alive booklet for September (

C.S Lewis was right on the button when he said, ‘Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.’ We pray at every Mass: ‘Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.’. Yet, when sinned against by a brother or sister, husband or wife, friend or foe, how ready are we to forgive? And how do we forgive? Reluctantly and resentfully, or readily, from the heart?

When Peter asked Jesus how often he should forgive, proposing the generous offer of ‘as many as seven time’, he was really trying to set a limit – to see how few times he could forgive and get away with it! Jesus responded with a number which was not really a number! ‘Seventy-seven times’ (or seventy times seven’) signified a countless number. Again we turn to C.S. Lewis, who explained: ‘We forgive, we mortify our resentment; a week later some chain of thought carries us back to the original offence and we discover the old resentment blazing away as if nothing had been done about it at all. We need to forgive our brother seventy times seven not only for 490 offences but for one offence.’

As often as the sense of grievance rises hot and strong with us, Jesus challenges us to forgive. And this forgiving is not so much about forgetting as about remembering without bitterness or acrimony in our hearts. Jesus speaks in the context of relationships within the church family. The closer a relationship, the more frequently and heavily we tend to tread on one another’s toes. Our deepest hurts are not usually inflicted by our worst enemy, but by our nearest and dearest, those close to us – our friends/relatives/work colleagues.

Editor’s comments: Yes and I say Yes. It is about anything that disturbs us. Every time it comes up give it to God. Again and again until he takes it graciously from our hands. Here is another. Forgiveness – again and again – for the same offense! Until we know that the offense is forgiven and it is God who washed it away when he knew we really and truly wanted to forgive. We are a funny lot but we are all made of the same human stuff.


If you would like to listen to something on the subject of forgiveness then go to youtube Bishop Robert Barrow Anger, and Forgiveness … He has many good Youtubes to listen to.

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