Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent
(Daniel 3:25.34-43; Matthew 18:21-35)
A little girl comes home crying. She says that she fell down and ruined her dress. The mother takes her into her arms to console her. She says, “I don’t care if you ruined a hundred dresses, just as long as you aren’t hurt.” Such graciousness is what Jesus demands of his disciples in today’s gospel reading.
Peter comes to Jesus asking for a rule of thumb to determine how much patience is required with an offensive church member, a “brother.” A situation can be readily imagined. A member of the community consistently comes late for services. She says that she is sorry and promises to try harder to be on time. But her tardiness is disruptive and the pastor wants to draw a line that might help her to fulfill her promise. What would Jesus say?
Jesus tells us to forgive the truly repentant, no matter the number of times. He exhorts long-suffering as a way of expressing love. But he would also advise discerning the sincerity of the offender. If she treats others with a similar magnanimity, pardon can be joyfully extended. If she harshly judges the motives of others, the earnestness of her intention to reform is dubious.