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A team of 200 priests comment on daily Gospel

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Liturgical day: Sunday 24th (A) in Ordinary Time

Gospel text (Mt 18,21-35): 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 forgive your brother or sister».

«How many times must I forgive the offenses of my brother or sister?»

Fr, Anastasio URQUIZA Fernández MCIU
(Monterrey, Mexico)

Today, we can see in the Gospel, how Peter asks Jesus about a very concrete theme that is still to be found in the heart of many persons: he asks the question about the limit of forgiveness. The reply is that this limit simply does not exist: «No, not seven times, but seventy-seven times» (Mt 18:22). And to explain this reality, Jesus uses a parable. The king's question centers the theme of the parable: «Weren't you bound to have pity on your companion as I had pity on you?» (Mt 18:33).

Forgiveness is a gift, a grace flowing out of God's love and mercy. For Jesus' forgiveness has no limits, provided repentance is true and sincere. But it requires opening our heart to conversion, that is, do with others as God requests us to.

Grave sin is excluded from the Kingdom (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church n. 1470). In converting to Christ through the Sacrament of Penance and faith, the sinner passes from death to life, and the penitent's act crowning this conversion is his atonement. Our own deeds showing our expiation are the sign of our personal commitment —that the Christian has assumed before God— to begin a new existence, while repairing, wherever possible, whatever damage made to our neighbors.

There cannot be any forgiveness of sins without a minimal satisfaction, the finality of which is: 1. To avoid sliding over towards graver sins; 2. To reject sin (as expiation acts like a brake and makes the penitent more prudent and cautious); 3. To forsake, through virtuous deeds, the bad habits acquired with our bad life; 4. To resemble to Christ.

As St. Thomas Aquinas explains, «Man becomes God's debtor in two ways; first, by reason of favors received, secondly, by reason of sin committed: and just as thanksgiving or worship or the like regard the debt for favors received, so satisfaction regards the debt for sin committed». The man of the parable was not willing to behave according to the favor received, so he was no longer deserving forgiveness.