Sunday, September 17
Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 18: 21 – 25
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.”
I don’t know about you, but I had to get a piece of paper out and calculate what seventy seven times seven equals. Jesus couldn’t have simply just said one times seven is the number of times we should forgive someone, much like Peter asked Him. Actually, Jewish tradition limited forgiveness to three times. So, Peter thought his willingness to forgive seven times was much more generous than Jewish tradition and thus surpassing the righteousness of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. But knowing Jesus, it needs to be seventy seven times seven…539 times, or in other words, we are to forgive an infinite number of times. Peter’s question indicated that he wanted to count how many times he should forgive, however, Jesus was in effect telling him not to count.
Today’s parable is not intended to just teach us that we need to forgive like the Father does, but it is also to tell us that it is easy to forgive and that it is just a choice that we all need to make. The servant was shown just how easy it was to be forgiven by the king, but he did not take that lesson to heart, he only had his own selfish interests in mind. The point of this parable is clear: Forgiveness lies at the heart of our faith in God and our love for one another. When we recite the Lord’s Prayer we say “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We probably tend to pray these words with ease and familiarity, but do we live our prayer? Do our actions support our request?
So today when we recite the Lord’s Prayer, and every time we do so in the future, let us live the words of forgiveness by our actions.
Deacon Paul Zemanek