Pentecost +20 — Year C
It takes a good deal of trust that forgiveness is the way to go. This is particularly true when it appears that forgiveness is not an effective tool to change the behavior of someone else.
If there is not a change in another’s behavior after we have forgiven them for an incident, we have a built-in excuse to not try that again and pull out a countervailing power. When even that doesn’t work there is only escalation left—a hand for a fingernail, an arm for a hand, a life for a felt slight.
No wonder the disciples asked for a sign worthy of their greater trust—that their reservoir of forgiveness would not run dry.
Jesus does not give such a sign. Instead he refocuses on seeing there is no lower limit to an innate ability to be engaged in a relationship to understand, modify, and transcend previous behaviors.
The second part of this passage is problematic as it is based on “earthly” behavior in need of a “heavenly” reconstruction. It is important to not be satisfied with a master-servant example when it comes to basic relationship dynamics.
If we stop here we justify abusive relationships.
Homework: How would you improve this passage by substituting some other example or an additional image to reinforce that we have sufficient resources to forgive without tying that to behavior control or privilege within a relationship?