Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Season of Lent
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. 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
forever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 18:21-35
Peter approached Jesus and asked him, "Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? 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 him 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."
• 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 in the heart. There are people who say, “I forgive, but I do not forget!” Rancor, tensions, diverse opinions, insults, offenses, provocations, all 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-seven times! 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 with the community (Mt 18:15-20) Prior to 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 with always. Jesus goes far beyond Peter’s proposal. He eliminates any possibility of limitation to pardon: “Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times!” That is, seventy times always! There is no proportion between the pardon which we receive from God and the pardon which we should offer to our brother or sister, 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. Seven fold vengeance for Cain but seventy-seven fold 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.
• Matthew 18:23-35: The parable of pardon without limits. The denarii was the coin in daily use at the time. 1 talent equaled 3,000 shekel or 6,000 denarii. Thus, the debt of ten thousand talents was approximately 60,000,000 denarii! 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 of earning this much. Before God’s love, which forgives gratuitously our debt of 60 million, it is more than just on our part to forgive gratuitously the debt of a single coin, seventy times always! The only limit to the gratuity of pardon of God is our incapacity to forgive our brother! (Mt 18:33-34; 6:15)
• The community, an alternative place of solidarity and fraternity: the society of the Roman Empire was hard and without a heart, without any room 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 as the synagogue. Besides this, toward the end of the first century, in the Christian communities, the same divisions which existed in society between rich and poor began to appear (Jas 2:1-9). Instead of making the community a place of acceptance, they ran the risk of becoming a place of condemnation and conflict. Matthew wants to enlighten the communities, so that these may 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?
• How do we accomplish reconciliation in our community?
• What is the best way to approach forgiveness and forgetting while still protecting the vulnerable in our care or in our community?
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)