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Contemplating today's Gospel

Today's Gospel + homily (in 300 words)

Thursday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

1st Reading (Josh 3:7-10a.11.13-17): The Lord said to Joshua, «Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know I am with you, as I was with Moses. Now command the priests carrying the ark of the covenant to come to a halt in the Jordan when you reach the edge of the waters».

So Joshua said to the children of Israel, «Come here and listen to the words of the Lord, your God. This is how you will know that there is a living God in your midst, who at your approach will dispossess the Canaanites. The ark of the covenant of the Lord of the whole earth will precede you into the Jordan. When the soles of the feet of the priests carrying the ark of the Lord, the Lord of the whole earth, touch the water of the Jordan, it will cease to flow; for the water flowing down from upstream will halt in a solid bank».

The people struck their tents to cross the Jordan, with the priests carrying the ark of the covenant ahead of them. No sooner had these priestly bearers of the ark waded into the waters at the edge of the Jordan, which overflows all its banks during the entire season of the harvest, than the waters flowing from upstream halted, backing up in a solid mass for a very great distance indeed, from Adam, a city in the direction of Zarethan; while those flowing downstream toward the Salt Sea of the Arabah disappeared entirely. Thus the people crossed over opposite Jericho. While all Israel crossed over on dry ground, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant of the Lord remained motionless on dry ground in the bed of the Jordan until the whole nation had completed the passage.
Responsorial Psalm: 113
R/. Alleluia!
When Israel came forth from Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of alien tongue, Judah became his sanctuary, Israel his domain.

The sea beheld and fled; Jordan turned back. The mountains skipped like rams, the hills like the lambs of the flock.

Why is it, O sea, that you flee? O Jordan, that you turn back? You mountains, that you skip like rams? You hills, like the lambs of the flock?
Versicle before the Gospel (Ps 118:135): Alleluia. Let your countenance shine upon your servant and teach me your statutes. Alleluia.
Gospel text (Mt 18,21—19,1): Peter asked Jesus, «Lord, how many times must I forgive the offenses of my brother or sister? Seven times?». Jesus answered, «No, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. This story throws light on the kingdom of heaven. A king decided to settle the accounts of his servants. Among the first was one who owed him ten thousand gold ingots. As the man could not repay the debt, the king commanded that he be sold as a slave with his wife, children and all his goods in payment. The official threw himself at the feet of the king and said, ‘Give me time, and I will pay you back everything’. The king took pity on him and not only set him free but even canceled his debt.

»This official then left the king's presence and he met one of his companions who owed him a hundred pieces of silver. He grabbed him by the neck and almost strangled him, shouting, ‘Pay me what you owe!’. His companion threw himself at his feet and asked him, ‘Give me time, and I will pay everything’. The other did not agree, but sent him to prison until he had paid all his debt. His companions saw what happened. They were indignant and so they went and reported everything to their lord. Then the lord summoned his official and said, ‘Wicked servant, I forgave you all that you owed when you begged me to do so. Weren't you bound to have pity on your companion as I had pity on you?’. The lord was now angry, so he handed his servant over to be punished, until he had paid his whole debt». Jesus added, «So will my heavenly Father do with you unless each of you sincerely for-give your brother or sister».

When Jesus had finished this teaching, He left Galilee and arrived at the border of Judea, on the other side of the Jordan River.

«Lord, how many times must I forgive the offenses of my brother or sister?»

Fr. Joan BLADÉ i Piñol (Barcelona, Spain)

Today, asking «how many times must I forgive the offenses of my brother or sister?» (Mt 18:21), may mean: —These persons I love so much also have their little ways and whims that bother me; day after day, they pester me every five minutes; they do not speak to me... Lord, how long am I supposed to put up with them?

And Jesus answers with the lesson of the patience. Actually, both colleagues coincide when they say: «have patience» (Mt 18:26-29). But, while the intemperance of the wicked one, strangling his companion for a few silver coins, provokes his moral and economic ruin, the king's patience, while saving the debtor, his family and his goods, magnifies the monarch's personality and generates the confidence of his court. The king's reaction in Jesus' words reminds us the Psalm that goes: «But you are willing to forgive, so that you might be honored» (Ps 130:4).

Evidently, we have to oppose to injustice, and energetically, if at all necessary, (otherwise, it would be a sign of apathy or cowardice). But indignation is healthy only when there is no selfishness, nor wrath, nor any nonsense, but our straight desire to fight for the truth. The authentic patience brings us to put up mercifully with contradiction, weakness, inconveniences, unreasonable persons or events. To be patient is tantamount to dominate oneself. Susceptible or violent persons cannot be patient because they neither take their time reflect about anything nor can they dominate themselves.

Patience is a Christian virtue because is a part of the message from the Kingdom of Heaven, and it is forged on the experience we all have defects. If Paul exhorts us to put on a heart of patience with one another (cf. Col 3:12-13), Peter reminds us that the Lord's patience offers us the chance of salvation (cf. 2Pet 3:15).

For, how many times has God's patience forgiven us in the confessionary? Seven times? Seventy seven times, seven? Maybe more!