24th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Mt 18:21-35
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, if my brother keeps on sinning against me, how many times do I have to forgive him? Seven times?”
22 “No, not seven times,” answered Jesus, “but seventy times seven,
23 because the Kingdom of Heaven is like this. Once there was a king who decided to check on his servants’ accounts.
24 He had just begun to do so when one of them was brought in who owed him millions of pounds.
25 The servant did not have enough to pay his debt, so the king ordered him to be sold as a slave, with his wife and his children and all that he had, in order to pay the debt.
26 The servant fell on his knees before the king. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay you everything!’
27 The king felt sorry for him, so he forgave him the debt and let him go.
28 Then the man went out and met one of his fellow servants who owed him a few pounds. He grabbed him and started choking him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he said.
29 His fellow-servant fell down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back!’
30 But he refused; instead, he had him thrown into jail until he should pay the debt.
31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were very upset and went to the king and told him everything.
32 So he called the servant in. ‘You worthless slave!’ he said. ‘I forgave you the whole amount you owed me, just because you asked me to.
33 You should have had mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you.’
34 The king was very angry, and he sent the servant to jail to be punished until he should pay back the whole amount.”
35 And Jesus concluded, “That is how my Father in heaven will treat every one of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”
Other readings: Ecclesiasticus 27:30 – 28:7; Psalm 103:1-4, 9-12; Romans 14:7-9
We continue to look at Jesus’s teaching on forgiveness. Peter wants to know how far forgiveness should stretch. So he asks how many times he must forgive a brother that keeps sinning against him. Is seven times enough? Jesus replies, “seventy times seven”. It’s not intended to be taken literally but rather to illustrate generosity of spirit. In effect Jesus is saying: don’t keep a record, just keep on forgiving.
Jesus adds a parable to illustrate his point. A servant owes the king a massive debt that he can never repay. He pleads for mercy and is fully released from the debt. The slate is wiped clean and he is given a fresh start. But the story doesn’t end there. This servant is himself owed a small amount of money by a fellow servant. Instead of showing him mercy too, he does the opposite. He insists that the debt be repaid in full and has him thrown into prison. The king is outraged when he learns of this behaviour, reinstates his debt and puts him in prison.
The message is clear: we are the servant who has been forgiven a massive debt we can never repay. If we fail to forgive someone a far smaller sin we will face God’s judgment (verse 35).
As Christians, we must be willing to forgive fellow Christians without delay when they sin against us. In this way we demonstrate God’s love and forgiveness to the world. Without mutual forgiveness our Church community has no credible witness.
What does this parable teach us about God’s nature? Do you recognise that you have been forgiven a huge debt of sin you can never repay? How does this affect your willingness to forgive others?
In this parable the king simply cancelled the debt, but God couldn’t deal with our sin like that. How was our debt paid? What is our response?
Today most people ignore or excuse sin. How do you view your own sin? God calls us to be holy. Use Psalm 51 as a prayer and confess your sin to God who is rich in mercy.
Meditate on the wonderful promises of Psalm 103: “As high as the sky is above the earth, so great is his love for those who honour him. As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our sins from us.”
Lectio Divina is an ancient tradition of reading and engaging with God’s Word
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