In today’s gospel Peter asks Jesus how often he must forgive his “brother.” We are not given the details as to what prompted Peter’s question. Perhaps Andrew had stolen his favorite fishing nets right before they followed Jesus and he never quite forgot about it. Or maybe Phillip and Bartholomew made fun of him for sinking and crying out to Jesus when he failed to walk on water four chapters earlier. Or perhaps Judas had short changed him with the money purse and didn't give him back what he owed him.
Whatever it was that caused Peter to ask about forgives we see that Jesus immediately trumps his seven times response by saying seventy-seven times. A number that is made up of two sevens, and seven means perfection in the Hebrew world – meaning, then, that we always have to forgive.
Though always needing to forgive is a nice thought, there is something more going on here. The fact Peter asks the question while following Jesus shows that true conversion to the teachings of Christ, whether it be towards forgiveness and mercy or loving our enemies, whatever it is it involves encountering, following, and knowing Christ. Peter is able to ask the question of forgiveness because he is changing. He is not the man he was when he first met Christ. As he follows Christ he is changing, slowly, more and more into Christ.
Peter sees this in the parable. If one does not take the forgiveness given to us by our Master to heart (like the servant) and live it then we are doomed to suffer. We suffer the weight of our own hardened hearts and of our own unyielding will. It is beyond us to fix this and only a relationship with God will take this away. Peter experiences the reality of forgiveness from the heart later when after denying Jesus three times, he lets the Risen Lord forgive him by asking him three times if he loves him.
By faith we are on the same journey with the Lord as Peter was. Let us take time today to ask the Lord to configure our hearts even more to his, so that we may forgive others as he forgives....truly from the heart.