'If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's...' -- Rom 14:8

God has issued a cease and desist order from being unforgiving.

Recently, we heard in a Gospel reading (Mt 16:21-27) Jesus' "Passion prediction" that the Son of Man must suffer and die and rise again on the third day. This prediction promised that God, through His Son, would remove any obstacle that blocked our being forgiven of our sins.

Then, in last week's Gospel (Mt 18:15-20), Jesus called His disciples to confront sin with love.

St. Paul likewise has been speaking to us: In Romans 12:1-2, he told us not to conform to the age and become worldly. He told us last week (Rom 13:8-10) to love, by which we are transformed, because one who truly loves cannot do evil to their neighbor.

In this week's Gospel (Mt 18:21-35), God issues a cease and desist order from being unforgiving. Peter asks Jesus, "Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?" Jesus answers, "I say to you, not seven times, but 77 times."

Infinite number
We are to forgive infinitely. This call to forgive an Infinite number of times reveals more about God than about ourselves. It is God who has responded to His own cease and desist order, for it is God who forgives us infinitely. It is God who calls us to love as God loves, and to forgive as God forgives.

The parable Jesus offers in this week's Gospel illustrates that. The king in the story is a just master and forgives the servant, but the servant is unjust. The servant passes judgment on himself because he has had an unforgiving heart.

"When his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed and went to their master and reported the whole affair. His master summoned him and said to him, You wicked servant! I forgave you're your entire debt because you begged me to; should you not have forgiven and had pity on your fellow servant, as I have had pity on you?"

We are to conform our lives to God, not to the world. Clearly, that is not what the unjust servant decided to do. St. Paul tells us in Sunday's second reading (Rom 14:7-9) that we are to be transformed so that we become like God: to love as God loves and to forgive as God forgives, "for if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord." The entirety of our lives is to reflect God's presence.

God even describes Himself in (Ps 103:1-4,9-12) as kind and merciful, slow to anger and rich in compassion. God introduced Himself to Moses in Exodus 34:5-6 as merciful, gracious and compassionate.

Mercy and compassion
God gives us an insight about the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit: The three persons of the Trinity are merciful, gracious and compassionate. This is what allows God to forgive our sins.

If we then are transformed by God to become like Him, we are able to be merciful, gracious and compassionate. These are the words that describe the cease and desist order that Jesus issues in the Gospel when He tell us to forgive 77 times.

In the first reading (Sir 27:30-28:7), the author reminds us that if we forgive, we will be forgiven. "Forgive your neighbor's injustice, then when you pray, your sins will be forgiven." Let us cease and desist from being unforgiving. Let's not conform our lives to the world but be transformed, so that we can love as God loves: with mercy, grace and compassion. We can also forgive as our God forgives: infinitely!