Sunday, September 17, 2023
Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
Gospel Mt 18:21-35
Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
"Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive?
As many as seven times?"
Jesus answered, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began the accounting,
a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
Since he had no way of paying it back,
his master ordered him to be sold,
along with his wife, his children, and all his property,
in payment of the debt.
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said,
'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.'
Moved with compassion the master of that servant
let him go and forgave him the loan.
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants
who owed him a much smaller amount.
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding,
'Pay back what you owe.'
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,
'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.'
But he refused.
Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison
until he paid back the debt.
Now 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 your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?'
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart."
Seeds of Forgiveness!
Upon Reflection: We all know that forgiveness is a big issue with Jesus. One might even go so far to say that the Jesus who is presented to us in all four Gospels is obsessed with the topic. He seems to think that this is the most important issue in the world. Scripture scholars even tell us that two thirds of Jesus' teaching in the Gospels is either directly or indirectly about forgiveness. Here again this week, Jesus teaches Peter about forgiveness and what our fate will be if we choose not to forgive.
For many of us, it is true: forgiveness is a big deal. Some of us have been hurt so deeply that we have a really hard time forgiving 77 times (code for unlimited) as Jesus suggests. For those of us who are in that category presently, the Gospel this week is a monumental challenge, but one that will free us if we take it on.
However, what about the many among us who have not been hurt that bad by anyone as of yet in our lives? What if all the hurts that we have experienced so far in life have been small enough that letting go of them and moving on has not been a big deal? Does that mean that two thirds of the Gospel does not really apply to us? Does that mean that the homily we hear this Sunday is meant for those other "troubled" people and not for us who are currently holding no grudges? Here's what I think:
This week's Gospel (and all of Jesus' teaching about forgiveness) is mainly directed toward the ones who are not yet holding grudges. Jesus is so obsessed with the topic because he is trying to plant the seeds of forgiveness within us. He knows that the inability to forgive will eventually torture us (apparently for all eternity!). Realistically, at some point in our lives we will all most likely be hurt deeply by someone close to us. So why not prepare ourselves now? Let's be ready to let go of the big hurts when they come in the same fashion that we have let go of the small hurts from the past. If we can prepare our hearts that way, then we will not have to deal with the anguish and self-inflicted wounds of grudges.