Mercy without Measure

Fr. Christopher Etheridge, IVE
Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent

In today’s Gospel our Lord teaches us what the true measure of our forgiveness should be…without measure. When asked by Peter how many times we must forgive our neighbor who offends us, Our Lord gives a loaded answer.

“Not seven times” he tells Peter, “but seventy times seven.” In other words he is saying, “without limit”. As St. John Chrysostom says, “Our Lord did not limit forgiveness to a fixed number, but declared that it must be continuous and forever”.[1]

There are many examples from the lives of saints that demonstrate that this hard teaching is a true possibility. In fact we could say that the faithful living out of this teaching is the true mark of sanctity.
I want to turn briefly to an example from the life of St. Louis Orione, who holds a dear place in the Religious Family’s heart since he had an influence on Fr. Buela. St. Louis, as a founder of a new religious order and promoter of truth and charity suffered greatly at the hands of bishops who were rubbed the wrong way by the success of his humble apostolic works. In the midst of slanders and lies pitted against him, he wrote this to a friend in Rome.

“I forgive everybody and am very glad to be away from the intrigues and storm of Tortona. My priests pray, keep silent and wait with me, fidentes in Domino… My enemies can even put my eyes out; just let them leave me a heart to love them…”

One of his own religious, to whom he had entrusted certain tasks, even wrote him an «ugly and lying» letter which caused St. Louis new suffering. Another priest friend advised the saint to adopt a counter-measure. Don Orione answered: “Nothing… For these people: a) one prays to God; b) one forgives; c) one loves.”

These are just two small examples, but they serve to encourage our own following of Christ’s teaching today as it is presented to us in the Gospel today. What Christ offers us is not an ideal, but a necessity—a truly necessary disposition if we are to advance along the path of imitating Him. A true “Christ”-ian cannot be an imitator of Christ by half-measures, likewise he shouldn’t forgive others, especially those closest to him, by half-measures either.

We are simply called to give mercy from the heart, without counting the cost.

[1] “Hom. on St. Matthew”, 6



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