Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Sirach 27:30-28:7; Psalm 103:1-4, 9-12; Romans 14:7-9; Matthew 18:21-35

First Reading: Sirach, a Wisdom book, distills insights from everyday experience, linking those insights to our relationship with God and others. The premise of this passage is that we are all sinners in need of forgiveness.

Psalm 103: Psalm 103 invites us to bless God because of God’s willingness to forgive, heal, rescue and embrace us no matter what. God’s kindness, love, and forgiveness are so great that they cannot be measured.

Second Reading: The wider context of this passage is Paul’s advice to the strong members of the Roman community in relationship to the weaker or more scrupulous members.

Gospel: In today’s Gospel, we have Matthew’s account of the unforgiving servant and it is situated within his fourth discourse, which addresses the ekklesia, or assembly of Christ.

Reflection: One of the first prayers many of us learn as small children is the Our Father. Many times we recite this prayer by rote, not really thinking about the words we pray and the relationship it implies. The gospel today is a kind of commentary on one part of the Our Father: “and forgive us our debts, / as we forgive our debtors,” but it is a commentary with a twist. In the Our Father God’s forgiveness of us is contingent on our forgiving others. In the gospel parable, the servant has already been forgiven his debt to this master, which makes his hard and unforgiving heart toward “one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount” even that much more reprehensible.

Life in the church demands that we forgive one another not only because it is the compassionate thing to do, but because this is how God acts and expects us to act. It belongs to the very “being” of God to forgive; if we are of God, then it is also our very “being” to forgive. The key to understanding this is that we are in relationship with both God and with each other. By forgiving, we choose not to let any offense that has happened between us control how we continue to relate to one another. By forgiving, we repair the damage to the relationship and restore dignity both to the forgiver and to the forgiven. This is why counting how many times we forgive – even to the seven that Peter suggests at the beginning of the gospel – misses the point. Jesus’ response to Peter is a way of reminding us that God forgives us countless times, and this is the motivation for forgiving each other equally countless times. Our “heavenly Father” has shown us the way – forgive one another “from [the] heart.”

Question for reflection: How have I extended God’s compassionate forgiveness in my discipleship?

Copyright © 2017, Scott W. Eakins. All Rights Reserved.

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