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Contemplating today's Gospel

Today's Gospel + homily (in 300 words)

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
1st Reading (Sir 27:33—28:9): Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight. The vengeful will suffer the Lord’s vengeance, for he remembers their sins in detail. Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven. Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord? Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself, can he seek pardon for his own sins? If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath, who will forgive his sins? Remember your last days, set enmity aside; remember death and decay, and cease from sin! Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor; remember the Most High’s covenant, and overlook faults.
Responsorial Psalm: 102
R/. The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.
Bless the Lord, o my soul; and all my being, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, o my soul, and forget not all his benefits.

He pardons all your iniquities, heals all your ills. He redeems your life from destruction, crowns you with kindness and compassion.

He will not always chide, nor does he keep his wrath forever. Not according to our sins does he deal with us, nor does he requite us according to our crimes.

For as the heavens are high above the earth, so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he put our transgressions from us.
2nd Reading (Rom 14:7-9): Brothers and sisters: None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For this is why Christ died and came to life, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.
Versicle before the Gospel (Jn 13:34): Alleluia. I give you a new commandment, says the Lord: love one another as I have loved you. Alleluia.
Gospel text (Mt 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 king 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."

“If my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive?”

Fr. Anastasio URQUIZA Fernández MCIU (Monterrey, Mexico)

Today, in the Gospel, Peter consults Jesus about a very specific topic that remains in the hearts of many people: he asks about the limit of forgiveness. The answer is that there is no such limit: "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times” (Mt 18:22). To explain this reality, Jesus uses a parable. The king's question centers the theme of the parable: “Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?” (Mt 18:33).

Forgiveness is a gift, a grace that comes from the love and mercy of God. For Jesus, forgiveness has no limits, as long as the repentance is sincere and truthful. But it demands opening the heart to conversion, that is, acting towards others according to God's criteria.

Grave sin separates us from God (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church n. 1470). The ordinary way to receive God's forgiveness for serious sin is the sacrament of Penance, and the act of the penitent that crowns it is satisfaction. The specific works that manifest this satisfaction are a sign of the personal commitment—that the Christian has made before God—to begin a new existence, repairing the harm done to one's neighbor as much as possible.

There can be no forgiveness of sin without some form of satisfaction, the purpose of which is: 1. To avoid slipping into more severe sins; 2. To reject sin (since doing penance acts as a brake with the past, and makes the penitent more cautious and vigilant moving forward); 3. To replace bad habits contracted from sinful living with virtuous actions; 4. To help the penitent become more conformed to Christ.

As Saint Thomas Aquinas explained: “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 in the parable was not willing to do the latter, so he became incapable of receiving forgiveness.

Thoughts on Today's Gospel

  • “Forgiveness demonstrates the presence in the world of the love which is more powerful than sin” (Saint John Paul II)

  • “When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy. Mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive” (Francis)

  • “… It is there, in fact, "in the depths of the heart," that everything is bound and loosed. It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2843)