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Thursday, 14 September 2023 12:11

A family formed by forgiveness - part 2

Peter went up to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times.

And so the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who decided to settle his accounts with his servants. When the reckoning began, they brought him a man who owed ten thousand talents; but he had no means of paying, so his master gave orders that he should be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, to meet the debt. At this, the servant threw himself down at his master’s feet. “Give me time” he said “and I will pay the whole sum.” And the servant’s master felt so sorry for him that he let him go and cancelled the debt.

Now as this servant went out, he happened to meet a fellow servant who owed him one hundred denarii; and he seized him by the throat and began to throttle him. “Pay what you owe me,” he said. His fellow servant fell at his feet and implored him, saying, “Give me time and I will pay you.” But the other would not agree; on the contrary, he had him thrown into prison till he should pay the debt. His fellow servants were deeply distressed when they saw what happened, and they went to their master and reported the whole affair to him. Then the master sent for him. “You wicked servant,” he said, “I cancelled all that debt of yours when you appealed to me. Were you not bound, then, to have pity on your fellow servant just as I had pity on you?” And in his anger the master handed him over to the torturers till he should pay all his debt. And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart.’ (Matthew 18:21-35)

Reflection - A family formed by forgiveness - part 2

Today’s Gospel follows directly from last Sunday’s reading about how to deal with differences and disputes.

Peter has understood the point of last Sunday’s Gospel (forgiveness and pastoral care), but wants to know the limits – is forgiving someone seven times enough? Jesus’ reply indicates that there should be no limit to the number of times. Then he tells a parable about forgiveness and gratitude.

There is no doubt that genuine forgiveness, forgiveness ‘from the heart’, is a real challenge. The more personally we are hurt by another person the harder it is to forgive them. Forgiveness is often more a movement than a moment. Often we only come to forgiveness step by step over a long period of time.

If we can pray for those who hurt us we have already taken the first step on the road to forgiveness. Forgiveness does not imply that what a person did was OK.

The biblical idea of forgiveness is built on the awareness of God’s extraordinary compassion towards us; God’s refusal to hold our past against us - the theme of today’s first reading.

But that action of God must find its resonance in how we behave towards each other. It will only have that resonance when we experience personally God’s overwhelming love for us. That is what binds us into relationship with God and into acting towards others as God has acted towards us.

That experience of God’s compassion builds a gratitude in us which enables us to forgive each other.

For the disciple of Jesus, forgiveness must be real and genuine - from the heart - and built on the awareness of God’s compassion and mercy towards us. That is why Jesus includes forgive us our debts as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us in his great prayer. If God has forgiven us, then we must forgive each other.

We don’t live our Christian lives in some kind of fantasy-land filled with pious thoughts and lovely dreams. We live it in the often harsh realities and difficult situations that human beings encounter.

How we live it will depend on the degree to which we have the same mind and heart as God.

Real life is the proving-ground of faith.

You can download and print our prayers and reflections for this Sunday:

pdf Celebrating At Home 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time [PDF] (2.81 MB)                                      
default Celebrating At Home 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time [ePub] (1.79 MB)

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