Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time Sir.27:30-28:7; Psalm 103; Rom. 14:7-9; Matt.18:21-35
My grandmother did not belong to any church. I never saw her with a Bible. But somewhere, imprinted in her soul, she knew God. She once said: “The earth is so beautiful, someone must have made it.” But it was in her living that she showed unparalleled forgiveness, no matter what anyone did or said to her.
Sirach knew, somewhere in his soul, that forgiveness was essential. He knew that to be pardoned, one must pardon. He knew that we must overlook faults in others, hoping that they will overlook faults in us.
The Psalmist has also experienced the forgiveness of God, the mercy of God, the kindness of God, as has Paul. We live for the Lord, they both say.
Peter was used to counting the fish he caught. He was used to settling accounts at market. How natural, then, for him to count a reasonable amount for forgiving the brother who sins against him. Seven sounded good to Peter. But Jesus is into higher mathematics. Seven is a prime number. Seven sets limits. Jesus sets a number higher than Peter suggests. Jesus in effect says, “ Don’t count.”
The generous king is also into higher mathematics and generous forgiveness. Despite the greatness of the amount owed him, the king, with a wave of his hand, discharges the debt of the servant and sends him on his way. The servant foolishly does not pay forward the favor. Casting his fellow servant who owes him money into prison, much less by comparison to what he himself owed the king, he has too soon forgotten the mercy shown him. It was not a good idea. Brought back to his own master, he suffers the consequences of his own lack of mercy.
We pray the Our Father soon after hearing this Gospel. We must be careful when we come to the words “as we.” Having received forgiveness from God for our sins and faults, we must extend that forgiveness to others. It is not an option. If we don’t, we had better leave out those two words when saying this holy, Christ given prayer. God is a God of love and mercy. God expects, no, demands, that we extend the same.
Sister Monica Paul Fraser, O.P.