September 13, 2020: Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading: 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 ruler 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.”
Peter asks a practical question: “How often must I forgive?” Jesus’ response was probably not what Peter hoped for: No score keeping; no limit to forgiveness. Instead, we are to imitate the limitless range of God’s forgiveness.
Forgiveness is hard. We struggle with how to balance the call to forgive with the hurt, anger disappointment we genuinely feel. These feelings are a heavy burden to carry – a burden that has more effect on us than the person who hurt us.
Jesus is challenging us to take an honest look at how we forgive. Do we apply different standards of forgiveness to ourselves than we do to others? Do we withhold forgiveness as a way to punish the offender? Do we see the offender as underserving of our forgiveness? Do we resist the mercy we have received? Do we consider our own need of mercy when giving mercy to others?
The call to forgiveness is so important to Jesus that he places it right after our need for daily bread in the Lord’s Prayer. How do we live that petition?
Slowly pray the Lord’s Prayer lingering for a time on the petition for our own forgiveness. This week, take this petition with you but change the wording to: Forgive MY trespasses as I forgive those who trespass against ME. How do these words affect you? Is there someone in your life in need of your forgiveness? Are you in need of forgiving yourself?