In dealing with others, at work, in social relationships, in everyday life, it is practically inevitable that friction will occur. It is also possible that someone offends us, that he behaves with us in an ignoble way, that he harms us. And this, perhaps, in a somewhat habitual way. Do I have to forgive up to seven times? That is, should I always forgive? This is the question that Peter proposes to the Lord in the Gospel of today's Mass1. It is also our theme of prayer: do we know how to forgive on all occasions, and do we do so promptly?
We know the Lord's answer to Peter, and to us: I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. That is, always. The Lord asks of those who follow him, you and me, a posture of unlimited forgiveness and apology. From his own, the Lord demands a big heart. He wants us to imitate him. "God's omnipotence," says St. Thomas, "is manifested, above all, in the fact of forgiving and using mercy, for God's way of demonstrating his supreme power is to forgive freely...", and so to us "nothing so much resembles God as being always ready to forgive. It is where we also show our greatest greatness of soul.
"Far from our conduct, therefore, the memory of the offenses that have been done to us, of the humiliations we have suffered - however unjust, uncivil and coarse they may have been - for it is unbecoming of a child of God to have a record prepared, to present a list of grievances. "4 Even if my neighbor does not improve, even if I fall back again and again on the same offense or on that which annoys me, I must renounce all rancor. My interior must remain healthy and clean of all enmity.
Our forgiveness must be sincere, from the heart, as God forgives us: Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors, we say every day in the Our Father. Forgiveness quickly, without letting rancor or separation corrode the heart even for a moment. Without humiliating the other party, without adopting theatrical gestures or dramatizing. Most of the times, in the ordinary coexistence, it will not even be necessary to say "I forgive you": it will be enough to smile, to return the conversation, to have a kind detail; to excuse, in short.
It is not necessary for us to suffer great offenses in order to exercise this show of charity. It is enough those little things that happen every day: quarrels at home for unimportant questions, bad answers or intemperate gestures often caused by the tiredness of people, that take place at work, in the traffic of big cities, in public transport....
It would be a bad way to live our Christian life if at the slightest touch our charity cooled down and we felt separated from others, or if we became bad-tempered. Or if a serious insult would make us forget the presence of God and our soul would lose its peace and joy. Or if we are susceptible. We should examine ourselves to see how we react to the discomforts that sometimes come with living together. To follow the Lord closely is to find a path to holiness even in this point, in small annoyances and serious offenses.