My Dear Sisters and Brothers! St Paul in our Second Reading taken from the Letter to the Romans wrote: The life and death of each of us has its influence on others. What kind of influence it will be comes from our accepting in faith and trust what St Paul wrote next: If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord, so that alive or dead we belong to the Lord. As we gather this Sunday, we can remember the words of St Peter, the Apostle: Do not behave in the way that you liked to before you learnt the truth. St Peter when he wrote those words had in his memory, and in his heart, the three years he walked with Jesus and other Apostles across the Holy Land. Today’s Gospel recalls a day from that three-year-long walk. However the walk wasn’t about physical fitness. It was about their growth in trust and faith in Jesus.
It was about trust. Peter is an example of someone who is not afraid of confronting his own thinking, his own life experience, with Jesus. Peter must have had situations when people wronged him. However he also had heard Jesus’ call to forgive, as we did last Sunday. So today we see St Peter coming and, rather generously, offering to forgive seven times. Lots of people would struggle to apply that to their life. Sometimes to forgive once seems to be like deserving a Noble Prize. So how did Jesus react to that generous offer of Peter? Did he award the first Pope with seven Noble Prizes? Jesus said: You must forgive seventy-seven times.
Here Peter had to place his faith in Jesus. The word he receive was challenging but it was also life giving. First to the people who would benefit from limitless forgiveness St Peter would offer. What a great impact on others, isn’t it. Secondly to Peter himself as he was living his life for the Lord Jesus not for himself, as he was allowing the Spirit of God to shape him according to the Good News proclaimed by Jesus Christ.
My Dear Fellow believers! The Scripture readings for this Sunday are about forgiveness but they are also about the Word of God which influences us who place our trust and faith in Jesus. The Scripture readings for this Sunday confront us, and our own way of listening and interpreting of the Bible with the truth of God. For example we may listen to the Word of God like the people at the music gala to the fire alarm and thought that the alarm didn’t apply to them. That it was irrelevant.
We may also try to water down the Scriptures by adding contemporary trends, politics, philosophies, ideologies, lack of faith, irreligiously etc. to the purity of the Word of God. It is like pouring a few liters of water to a glass of wine. After that exercise what is left in the glass, is it still wine? Is it still the Word of God which is life giving, hope giving, love giving or is it the product of our own doubt, conformity, the easy way, self-absorbedness, individualism etc. which is death giving, despair giving, hate giving?
The Peter of our time, Pope Francis, like all Pope we might have known so far, is an attentive listener to the Word of God. Every day between 5 and 7am he meditates on the Word of God, he allows the Word of God to influence him. Last week when he was in Colombia he was approached by a woman whose husband poured acid on her face. After many surgeries she decided to have euthanasia as he believed that her psychological suffering was unbearable. She went up to the Pope and asked him to bless her for her final journey. The Pope answered: ‘You will not do that. You are beautiful and courageous.’ It was a brief moment but it changed her. She doesn’t want to have euthanasia. Her life was influenced by the Pope who first was influenced by the Word of God.