Gospel Reflection Sept 17 – Deacon Paul
Sunday, September 17
Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 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.”
Friends, why do we find it so hard to forgive? Do you have someone right now that you need to forgive in your life? Is it perhaps a spouse, a child, a parent, a sibling, a friend, a co-worker? Whoever it is, we need to heed Jesus’ guidance in today’s Gospel when asked by Peter: “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?”
Peter thought he was being very generous by saying seven times, because in Jewish tradition, forgiveness of another is limited to three times. But Jesus said in reply, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.” In other words, Jesus is telling us that there is no limit to the depth and breadth of mercy and forgiveness that we must offer another. No Limit!! For forgiveness is a matter of one’s heart. Where Peter’s question indicated that he wanted to count how many times he should forgive, Jesus, however, was in effect telling him NOT to count.
Friends, the point of today’s parable is a very clear one: that forgiveness and mercy lie at the heart of our Faith in God and in our love for one another. When we recite the Lord’s Prayer and 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 really live this prayer? Do our actions support our request for forgiveness?
C.S. Lewis once wrote: “To be Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” In the end, mercy and forgiveness will always triumph, heal, and give us the peace of Christ.
Deacon Paul Zemanek