1) Opening prayer
you want us to live our faith
not so much as a set of rules and practices
but as a relationship from person to person
with you and with people.God, keep our hearts turned to you,
that we may live what we believe
and that we may express our love for you
in terms of service to those around us,
as Jesus did, your Son,
who lives with you and the Holy Spirit
for ever and ever.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 18, 21-35
Then Peter went up to him 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; 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, with the words, "Be patient with me 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, saying, "Pay what you owe me." His fellow-servant fell at his feet and appealed to him, saying, "Be patient with me 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 had happened, and they went to their master and reported the whole affair to him. Then the master sent for the man and said to him, "You wicked servant, 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.'
• Today’s Gospel speaks to us about the need for pardon. It is not easy to forgive, because certain grief and pain continue to burn the heart. There are persons who say: “I forgive, but I do not forget!” Rancour, tensions, diverse opinions, insults, offences, provocations, all this renders pardon and reconciliation difficult. Let us try to meditate on the words of Jesus which speak about reconciliation (Mt 18, 21-22) and which speak to us about the parable of pardon without limits (Mt 18, 23-35).
• Matthew 18, 21-22: To forgive seventy times seven! Jesus had spoken of the importance of pardon and of the need of knowing how to accept the brothers and sisters to help them to reconcile themselves with the community (Mt 18, 15-20) Before these words of Jesus, Peter asks: “How often should I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?” Number seven indicates perfection. In this case, it was synonymous of always. Jesus goes far beyond the proposal of Peter. He eliminates any possibility of limitation to pardon: “Not seven I tell you, but seventy seven times!” That is, seventy times always! Because there is no proportion between the pardon which we receive from God and the pardon which we should offer to the brother, as the parable of pardon without limit teaches us.
• The expression seventy seven times was a clear reference to the words of Lamech who said: “·I killed a man for wounding me, a boy for striking me. Sevenfold vengeance for Cain but seventy-sevenfold for Lamech” (Gen 4, 23-24). Jesus wants to invert the spiral of violence which entered the world because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve, because of the killing of Abel by Cain and for the vengeance of Lamech. When uncontrolled violence invades life, everything goes wrong and life disintegrates itself. The Deluge arrived and the Tower of Babel appeared for universal dominion (Gen 2, 1 to 11, 32).
• Matthew 18, 23-35: The parable of pardon without limits. The debt of ten thousand talents was approximately around 164 tons of gold. The debt of one hundred denarii was worth about 30 grams of gold. There is no comparison between the two! Even if the debtor together with his wife and children set to work their whole life, they would never be capable to get 164 tons of gold. Before God’s love which forgives gratuitously our debt of 164 tons of gold, is more than just on our part to forgive gratuitously the debt of 30 grams of gold, seventy times always! The only limit to the gratuity of pardon of God is our incapacity to forgive our brother! (Mt 18,34; 6,15).
• The community, an alternative space of solidarity and of fraternity: the society of the Roman Empire was hard and without a heart, without any space for the little ones. They sought refuge for the heart and did not find it. The Synagogue was also demanding and did not offer them any place. And in the Christian communities, the rigor of some in the observance of the Law made life together difficult because they used the same criteria of the Synagogue. Besides this, toward the end of the first century, in the Christian communities began to appear the same divisions which existed in society between rich and poor (Jm 2, 1-9). Instead of making of the community a space of acceptance, they ran the risk of becoming a place of condemnation and conflict. Matthew wants to enlighten the communities, in such a way that these be an alternative space of solidarity and of fraternity. They should be Good News for the poor.
4) Personal questions
• Why is it so difficult to forgive?
• In our community is there a space for reconciliation? How?
5) Concluding Prayer
Direct me in your ways, Yahweh,
and teach me your paths.
Encourage me to walk in your truth
and teach me since you are the God who saves me.
For my hope is in you all day long. (Ps 25,4-5)