Thursday of the 19th Week of the Year

Matt 18:21-19:1

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

OTHER HOMILY SOURCES:

Peter asked: ‘Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me?” He got a mathematical answer. “Not seven times, I tell you, but seventy seven times.” Although he was engaged in numbers, being a fisherman, Peter didn’t understand it.

The whole message of today’s gospel is the necessity to continuously forgive a person. For this is exactly what God is also doing to us. He never refuses to forgive us every time we ask forgiveness from Him.

Why is it so difficult for many of us to forgive? It is because we become pre-occupied with the pain that other people inflict on us. We also want them to suffer the injury and the pain they did to us.

Look at the Crucified Jesus on the Cross. Did Jesus ever think of his pain when he was unjustly condemned to die on the cross? Did Jesus ever wish the people who crucified him the same fate he suffered? To the thief, our Lord forgave: “Today, you shall be with me in the Paradise.” To the rest he said: “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.”

Today’s gospel invites us then to take a look at our relationship with others. It invites us to take the initiative to begin the healing process of forgiveness. Our Lord summed up all these thoughts in one sentence in a prayer we always utter during Mass: “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” Pray this often. (Fr. Gerry Donato, SVD Bible Diary 2004)

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A few steps more and I would reach my goal. Yes, there it was: Heaven’s Gate. How narrow it was! But the Lord had warned us already. Above the gate something was written, maybe its name. Golden Gate, perhaps. Looking closer I read “Forgiveness,” just that. One step more and I would meet Peter. Right, there he was sitting. I recognized him immediately. No one else has such a cute, curled beard. After greeting him I proceeded towards the door, but he stopped me by shaking his wise head saying, “Stop!”

“Why St. Peter? I made a good confession before I came up here,” I told him. He shook his head again, “Not that easy, my dear chap. You made a confession, yes, but you did not forgive yet your superior; you did not forgive yet those people who made your life miserable. Look what’s the name of the gate! Forgiveness!” But, dear St. Peter….”

“No ‘dear St. Peter,’ please. Haven’t you asked God everyday of your life in the Lord’s Prayer to forgive your sins as you forgive others? Without forgiving no entry, no entry! I had also to learn my lesson. The Rabbis taught us to forgive three times. I was even more generous by doubling it and throwing one more time into the bargain. But the Lord was not impressed by my generous seven times. ‘Seventy times seven times,’ He insisted. And don’t you start counting until 490 times and then stop. Because in our language seventy times seven times means ALWAYS.”

“But St. Peter….” I started. “Sorry na lang, no ‘buts’. The Lord gives you a few days more. Go back and forgive and this gate will be wide open.”

Then I woke up.

What makes forgiving so difficult? Our pride? The wrong notion that forgiving is a sign of weakness or permissiveness, or the wrong idea that forgiving might be siding with the evil ones?

God has forgiven me so many times. Can I not do the same and so avoid another stern interview with St. Peter at the Heaven’s Gate, called “Forgiveness?” (Fr. Rudy Horst, SVD Bible Diary 2005)

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The story in the Song of the Bird of Fr. Anthony de Mello, SJ would help us in our reflection in today’s reading. It goes like this.

“Why do you keep talking about my past mistakes?” said the husband. “I thought you have forgotten.”

“I have, indeed,” said the wife. “But don’t you ever forget that I have forgiven and forgotten.”

Sinner: “remember, not my sins, oh Lord.”

Lord: “What sins? I forgot them long ago. You’ll have to prod my memory.”

1Corinthian 13 beautifully states: ‘Love keeps no record of wrongs.” This is also the heart of our gospel reading today. Jesus shows limitless mercy and justice in responding to Peter’s question on forgiveness.

We have been forgiven a debt which is beyond all paying, for our sins have brought about the debt of God’s own Son. If that is so, we must forgive others as God has forgiven us. Therefore, forgiveness must be from our heart for divine and human forgiveness go hand in hand. (Sr. Nimfa Seranias, SSpS Bible Diary 2006)

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According to Cherie Carter Scoot (If Life is a Game, These are the Rules), there are four kinds of forgiveness. The first one is forgiveness for yourself: you must be compassionate to yourself for doing the best under the circumstances you had at that time; make amends then release the situation. Second is forgiveness of others: when you forgive someone for a moderate transgression by identifying with the person’s motivation so you can realize why the person did what he did; show compassion and then release it. Third is advanced forgiveness of yourself: this is meant for serious transgressions when you did something that violates your own values and ethics by seeking to understand why you did it; make amends and find it in your heart to absolve it. The fourth is advanced forgiveness of others: when you have been wronged or hurt by others to such an extent that forgiveness seems impossible!

It is said that when we forgive another from the heart, it is like building a bridge in which we can travel on our way from earth to heaven. For Jesus said: “Forgive others and God will forgive you.” (Fr. Mike M. Mahinay, SVD Bible Diary 2007)

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Will vinegar taste bitter when allowed to stand in its container for long? Some cooks I interviewed said that tuba vinegar made from coconut becomes even more aromatic and appetizing the longer it is kept. One of them mentioned that buli vinegar from buli/buri plant tastes bitter and even becomes more bitter the longer it stays in the container. No wonder, no one sells sukang buli.

I bet unforgiveness is like sukang buli: it leaves a bitter taste in us, and the longer we can’t forgive, the more bitterness we develop. The stomach may start to feel the acid and with continued unforgiveness, bitterness increases, leading to appetite loss that engenders weight and energy loss, maybe ulcers, sickness and then who knows when? – DEATH! What a way to die! In short, unforgiveness can kill.

Matthew’s parable of unforgiveness thus becomes a warning – without forgiveness, we torture and trap ourselves. There are people who do not know how to apologize; hence, if all we do is wait until they do so, we may become masochistic. Jesus thus tells us to forgive as many times as needed. We can do the following: 1) give a prescription to others who have hurt us and may need time before they can apologize for the hurt they caused us; and/or 2) cancel altogether the bitterness by forgiving from our hearts the hurts others have given us even before they apologize. In this way, we keep bitterness away from our life and we can continue to relate with the other as healthily as we can.

If from the heart we forgive, I’d like to believe that the forgiver can find ways to live better than bitter. (Fr. Bernardo R. Collera, SVD Bible Diary 2009)

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The Lord’s Prayer is actually a dangerous prayer. There we say and repeat so often as we say it, “Forgive us our sin AS we forgive those who sin against us.” What we are telling the Lord is, he may forgive us only when we forgive others.

Forgiveness is really a problem and we understand why the Lord told such an exaggerated parable about it in answer to Peter’s question. Peter (with his big mouth) thought he was very generous. Based on the prophet Amos, the Rabbis taught that one should forgive a brother just three times but not more. Peter doubled this and added one time more – surely to be praised by the Lord for being so generous. But Jesus was not pleased and wanted Peter and us to forgive without counting – again and again – always.

Jesus illustrates this with the story of the servant who was forgiven a great debt, who went out and dealt mercilessly with a fellow servant who owed him only a fraction of what he himself had owed; and who for his mercilessness was condemned. This parables teaches a lesson which runs through the whole New Testament: We must forgive in order to be forgiven! He who will not forgive his fellowmen cannot hope for God will forgive him, as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer. After teaching this Prayer Jesus continues, “For if you forgive men their sins, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; if you do not forgive men,  neither will your Father forgive your trespasses,” (Mt 6:14-15). And James wrote: “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy,” (Jas 2:13). Divine and human forgiveness go hand in hand.

Forgiveness does not come easy, especially when a grave injustice has been done to us, when we were hurt deeply by words and actions.

Spiritual writers usually give some advices on how to deal with this problem. First of all we have to accept that forgiveness might be beyond our weak human capacity. Therefore, prayer is necessary, prayer for the person who has offended us, and prayer for ourselves that we may receive the grace to eventually forgive that person. And finally, try to be nice to that person as if nothing happened, and the negative feelings will begin to melt like snow in the hot sun (Fr. Rudy Horst, SVD Bible Diary 2012).

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UNFORGIVENESS EATS US UP (Mt 18:21-34):  there is an amusing twist in this gospel about forgiveness. The Lord starts to preach about forgiveness yet, He ends up by saying that those who will not forgive will be tortured. “Send him out to gnash his teeth.” Torture, as you know, is the highest form of unforgiveness.

On the other hand, perhaps there is actually no twist to the gospel because, you see, when we d not forgive, we become tortured. But the torture is not inflicted on us by God.

When we do not forgive, the torture is not inflicted on us by the priest who hears our sins. When you do not forgive, the torture comes to and from you. You inflict the penalty on yourself. You punish yourself. You rob yourself of peace and joy.

Christians who refuse to forgive, who harbor resentment in their hearts, who harbor bitterness inside themselves, torture, punish and rob themselves of so many graces. When you do not forgive, you become irritable. When you do not forgive, you become very grouchy. When you do not forgive, you acquire wrinkles. When you do not forgive, you are unable to sleep well.

Some years ago, I was riding in a car and a bus bumped us from behind. I was more angry than my driver. I angrily demanded payment for the damage from the bus driver, blaming him for the whole incident. The bus driver begged me and explained that he was new in the company. I did not want to hear any of his explanations until he told me the accident could cost him his job. He was worried about his family. Then I paused for a while and said, “Sige na lang,” so we went away.

If I had insisted on refusing forgiveness to that bus driver perhaps to this day my heart would still be full of resentment. But thanks to the movement of God’s spirit, I just wrote-off what he owed me.

And then, there was inner peace. There was inner joy and I went away at peace with God, at peace with myself.

When you do not forgive, torture comes upon you and that torture does not come from God. It comes from your heart. You punish yourself, you rob yourself of peace.

All of us have people we do not like to forgive. All of us have in our hearts people who irritate us. Let us pray for such people today. Let us also pray for ourselves; that our hearts may be as forgiving as the heart of Jesus. (Socrates Villegas, Only Jesus Always Jesus, pp. 181-182)

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HONEST CRIMINALS (Mt 18:21-35): When we commit sin, there are always two parties involved – the offender and the offended. It is the same way in crime; we have the criminal and the victim.

The reading for today tells us how the criminal or offender and the victim or offended party, should act.

The criminal, offender or sinner, should tell the truth. There is no substitute for that. You may suffer from telling the truth, but you will have peace of mind. Those unwilling will not get a good night’s sleep. The advice to the offender is to tell the truth and stick to it. He should not create another story, false accusation or blame others. He must assume responsibility for his crime, sin or offense.

On the other hand, the offended one should be compassionate and merciful – ready to pardon and forgive.

These are two points. The offended should always be merciful, while the offender should always tell the truth. All of us have been offended and all of us have offended somebody. What kind of an offender are you. Do you cover your offenses with lies what kind of an offended one are you? Do you hold grudges and harden your heart even more?

Let us learn from the Lord. May we be truthful offenders. May we be compassionate offended ones. (Socrates Villegas, Jesus in my Heart, p. 38)

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We are called to be rivers, not lakes. In the course of our meeting in Rome last year, I got a surprise. One night, after sorting out and replying to my emails in the computer room, I decided to go up and take an early night rest. On the doorknob of my room, I found a plastic bag with the chocolates – the type I cannot resist. But with the chocolates was a small bookmark with these words from proverbs 11:25 – “Be generous and you will be prosperous. Help others and you will be helped.”

We have often reflected on the parable we have in today’s liturgy as a story about forgiveness. However, beyond this strict interpretation of the parable, I believe that the story of Jesus makes us also realize this: whatever gifts God decides to give to us despite our unworthiness, are meant to be shared and passed. Then the benevolence of God for us will be like a river. The more the river empties into the sea its water becomes fresh, cool, and clean with waters that nourish it from springs. When waters in a river do not flow, soon they become dirty and unhealthy. (Fr. Domie Guzman SSP New Every Morning New Everyday pp. 247-248)

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August 16, 2012

St. Rock (Roque), healer
St. Stephen of Hungary, king
(OptM) WHITE

Thursday of the 19th Week
GREEN

Ez 12:1-12
Ps 78
Mt 18:21—19:1

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

21Peter [approached and] asked [Jesus], “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. 23That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. 24When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. 25Since 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. 26At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’ 27Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan. 28When 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.’ 29Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ 30But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt. 31Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. 32His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. 33Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ 34Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. 35So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”

1When Jesus finished these words, he left Galilee and went to the district of Judea across the Jordan.

Reflection:

How often must I forgive him? God freely forgives us without limit and condition. Here Jesus tells Peter to forgive to the utmost of his capacity. Seven for the Jews  signifies fullness, completeness. Multiplying seven with seventy, Jesus says that we must forgive without limits because God’s forgiveness is limitless.

God never refuses us his forgiveness, so why should we limit our forgiveness? God has forgiven us first and continually. The forgiveness we ask from God is the same forgiveness that we withhold from our brothers and sisters.

Who are the people whom we have to forgive? Who are those from whom we have to ask forgiveness?

ssp.ph/index.php/online-resources/366-days-with-the-lord/1950-august-16-2012

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In today’s gospel when Peter questions Jesus on the need for forgiveness, Jesus emphasizes that God’s kingdom is one of boundless mercy. Through the parable of the unforgiving servant, he is teachings his disciples, and us, about how God’s mercy and forgiveness work. God always looks at us with endless love and mercy. He is “moved with pity” and quickly forgives our offenses when we ask him. “We think especially here of the wonderful Sacrament of Reconciliation). His forgiveness is at work of his grace which means always to transform us more and more into a likeness to himself. In this way, as we ourselves are forgiven, we receive the grace to do likewise, to be like God in our dealings with others and show them mercy as well. If we refuse to forgive others, we are closing our hearts to the grace which we receive from God, and thus closing ourselves off from his forgiveness. We are then left in the hands of the “torturer” (the evil one and our own conscience) continually accusing and condemning us about our own sin.

In the reading for today, we see that God is trying to teach a similar lesson to the people of Ezekiel’s time. They have closed their hearts to God’s grace and refused to follow his ways. In their rebellion against God, they no longer see what he is trying to show them, or hear his words. So in his great mercy he sends Ezekiel to act out for them in a very clear way what they are doing to themselves. They are leaving the “home” which the Lord brought them to, and are setting out to wonder in the darkness like exiles. God wants them to see that our true “home” is with him, we are made to walk in his ways and to come to union with him. If we refuse to follow him, then we wonder in darkness and exile.

The lesson for today is clear: we have been forgiven a “huge amount” by God. In joy and gratitude, we need to open our hearts to treat others with the same love and mercy. At times we find this difficult, especially when someone has deeply offended us. Truly forgiving the other in such a case is not something that we can do from mere human effort. We must beg for the grace of God to work in our hearts, giving us the ability to go beyond our natural capabilities to act in the way God acts. Then we not only free the other and witness to them the goodness of God, we also grow more into the likeness of Christ. Let us ask God today for the grace to enter fully into this wonderful work of his mercy on us and on those around us.

Do I accept the loving forgiveness of the Lord? Thinking back a few years, in what ways have I encountered the mercy of God? How do I generally relate to others? Do I allow Christ to transform my heart so I can transmit his love to others? (Pondering the Word the Anawim Way – July 8, 2012 to August 25, 2912/Cycle B Year 2, August 16, 2012 pp. 188-189)

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v. 33: “Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?” Forgiveness is a cycle of favor.  Just as we receive it from those who have offended, we must also give it to those who have wronged us. Complete the cycle. Return the favor. Give what you received. Forgive (Fr. Ching OP).

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THURSDAY OF THE 19TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A) – MATEO 18:21-19:1. Ngano man nga kinahanglan kitang magpasaylo? Usa sa daghang mga rason nganong kinahanglan kitang magpasaylo mao ang atong kaugalingong kaayohan. Sa atong pagpasaylo, atong gihatagan og kagawasan dili lang ang tawo nga nakasala kanato kondili ang ato usab nga kaugalingon. Ang tawo nga dili makamaong magpasaylo mahimong binilanggo sa mapait nga kagahapon ug tungod niini dili siya makapadayon nga malinawon sa iyang kinabuhi. Mahimo siyang masuk-anon, matinamayon ug mahukmanon. Diha sa ebanghelyo si Kristo nagsugo sa mga tinun-an sa pagpasaylo sa isigkaingon dili lamang sa pipila ka higayon kondili sa tanang panahon. Siya, nga atong Ginoo, nasayod nga ang sekreto sa malipayong kinabuhi anaa sa kasingkasing nga mapasayloon ug malinawon. Posted by Abet Uy

abetuy.blogspot.com/2014/08/thursday-of-19th-week-in-ordinary-time.html

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

THURSDAY OF THE 19TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR B) – MATEO 18:21-19:1. NGANO MAN NGA KINAHANGLAN KITANG MAGPASAYLO SA MGA NAKASALA KANATO? Usa sa mga hinungdan niini mao ang atong kaugalingong kaayohan. Sa atong pagpasaylo, atong gihatagan og kagawasan dili lang ang tawo nga nakasala kanato kondili ang ato usab nga kaugalingon. Ang tawo nga dili makamaong magpasaylo mahimong binilanggo sa mapait nga kagahapon ug tungod niini dili siya makapadayon nga malinawon sa iyang kinabuhi. Mahimo siyang masuk-anon ug mahukmanon. Si Kristo nagsugo sa mga tinun-an sa pagpasaylo sa isigkaingon dili lamang sa pipila ka higayon kondili sa tanang panahon. Siya nga Ginoo nasayod nga ang sekreto sa malipayong kinabuhi anaa sa kasingkasing nga mapasayloon ug malinawon. Si Tony Robbins nag-ingon: “Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.” Posted by Abet Uy

abetuy.blogspot.com/2015/08/thursday-of-19th-week-in-ordinary-time.html

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Reflection for Thursday August 14, Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr; Matthew 18:21-19:1Reflection: What will happen to us if we are forgiving? We feel light, young and there’s no pent-up emotions in our hearts that makes life so heavy for us.  What will happen to us if we don’t forgive?

There’s always a heavy burden in our hearts that does nothing to us except to attract negative vibes and sickness. Take for example if we see someone who has wronged us that we have not forgiven yet. Our face turns red an indication of sudden surge of our blood pressure that may become fatal and could result to other health complications.

Therefore it’s always better to be forgiving, this doesn’t mean that when we forgive we forget the lesson/s why we forgave. When we forgive those who’ve wronged us we let bygones be bygones yet the lesson/s learned will remain for this will help us become better and not bitter individuals.

In our gospel for today Peter asked Jesus, “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. In simple terms Jesus is teaching us that we must always be forgiving no matter how severe the injury done to us. Because when we don’t forgive we only imprison ourselves to this vicious and injurious emotion called hatred.

But let us say we really can’t forgive, let us go down on our knees and pray to Jesus and let us ask Him to heal us and give us the grace of forgiveness. – mjdasma Posted by: Marino J. Dasmarinas

mjdasma.blogspot.com/2014/08/reflection-for-thursday-august-14-saint.html

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CHRISTIAN FORGIVENESS – Fr. Nil Guillemette begins a reflection on today’s Gospel with the following story about what happened in India at the Ganges River: “A traveler was passing by a road near the river. He saw an old man wading in waist-deep water, trying to retrieve a floating piece of bark. The old man was having trouble doing so. The traveler moved closer and saw that a scorpion was caught on the bark and that the old man was trying to save the scorpion from drowning. The traveler was horrified. ‘Why do you keep trying to save that scorpion?’ he asked. ‘It stings you every time you touch it!’ The old man replied, ‘It is only its nature to sting. My nature is to save. Why should I change my nature because of the scorpion’s nature?’”

Fr. Nil applies this story to Jesus’ lesson on forgiveness, saying, “In the mind of Jesus, it must be part of a Christian nature to forgive, however difficult it might be. Forgiveness is an essential condition to be a Christian” (Nil Guillemette, Kindlings, p. 251).

Jesus is not demanding something that’s impossible for us to do. He forgave a woman caught committing adultery. As a sign of forgiveness, He invited Himself into the house of a sinner, the tax collector Zacchaeus. Finally, He died a horrible death on the cross for the forgiveness our sins. In every confession we make, we experience the limitless forgiveness of a merciful God.

St. John Paul II gave a beautiful example of Christian forgiveness. After he was shot and critically wounded on May 13, 1981 by Mehmet Ali Agca, he later went to the prison cell of his assassin and forgave him. In 2000, he even asked the Italian president to pardon Ali Agca who had been sentenced to lifetime imprisonment.

Forgiveness does not come easy. It takes prayer to have the grace to forgive. We need to be more mindful when we say, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” In other words, God forgives us depending on how we have forgiven others. Fr. Rudy Horst, SVD

REFLECTION QUESTIONS: Do you have difficulties in forgiving others? Do you find strength by looking at the cross?

Lord, I have often struggled to forgive someone who has hurt me. Today’s reflection encourages me to follow Your example and to become more forgiving.

kerygmafamily.com/modules/dailyreadings/read.php?date=2015-08-13

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August 13, 2015

Thursday of the 19th Week in the Ordinary Time B

Joshua 3: 7-10a, 11, 13-17, Mt 18: 21–19:1

Forgiveness Given and Received

There are two parables of Jesus that focus on the virtue of forgiveness, but in two different ways: The Parable of the prodigal son in the gospel of Luke and the parable of the unforgiving servant of today’s reading.  Forgiveness is a virtue that graces both the giver and the receiver alike. Giver is relieved of the burden of grudge and the receiver is relied of the burden of guilt. The parable is a corollary to the prayer the Jesus taught his disciples – the Lord’s Prayer.  The parable is also seen as an illustration to the second part of the prayer about forgiveness.

For Peter, who was brought up in a tradition that had taught him that he could take only “an eye for an eye” not more, the seven times that he proposed to forgive would have been way out of the expected standard of a Jew. Probably he thought that the number seven gave his profoundly generous proposal a divine perfection especially in the light of the repeated teachings of his Master on forgiveness.

However, the disciple had to go a long way as the correction of the Master suggests in this regard: “seventy times seven”, i.e., the forgiveness that the Master places as the benchmark for the disciples is beyond numerals and certainly beyond calculations. This is the kind of forgiveness that the prodigal son received from his father. The son’s calculations took him as far as the possibility of an employment at his father’s house, but the father’s unconditional and unconsidered forgiveness must have shocked even the son.

The forgiveness that is given and received in today’s parable takes us a step further. The Parable of the prodigal son teaches us a lesson of the mercy of the Father seen in his forgiveness, whereas the present parable gives us a lesson on the duty of those who ever experienced his forgiveness through others. The divine forgiveness that we receive is to be tricked down to others through us.

In today’s world that is torn apart by spiralling strife and vengeance that incessantly ends up in destruction of both property and human live, unconditional cancellation of all the insurmountable debts and unrestricted forgiveness is an antidote by means of which healing and eventual peace will come into the world. As some parts of the world are in the grip of violence unleashed in the name of God, and people there are undergoing untold sufferings, we pray for the gift of forgiveness and the spirit of understanding that everyone of God’s children who are in various kinds of exile, as Ezekiel would point out, might live end enjoy his/her life on God’s earth.

navchetana.com/web/homilies.php?date=2015-08-13

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Human Harshness vs. the Charity of a Saint

August 13, 2015 (readings)

Thursday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Father Steven Reilly, LC

Matthew 18:21 – 19:1

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 his brother from his heart.” When Jesus finished these words, he left Galilee and went to the district of Judea across the Jordan.

Introductory Prayer: Lord God, I believe you are present here with me as I begin this moment of prayer. I hope in you. I know that you will always take care of me. I want this time with you to be a sign of my love for you. I seek only to please you, without desiring any spiritual consolation for myself.

Petition: Lord, grant me a more forgiving heart!

  1. Human Harshness:“He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’” The Gospel gives a startling example of human harshness. History recalls another one. In Auschwitz, the camp deputy commander, Karl Fritzch, decided that the most effective way to keep prisoners from trying to escape would be an overwhelming example of reprisal. Ten men in Block 13 were picked out for starvation. The thought of innocent men dying because of another’s escape would definitely make anyone think twice about it. The master of our Lord’s story is angry at the harshness of his servant. We can only imagine the Lord’s anger at the harshness of a place like Auschwitz, called by Pope-Emeritus Benedict, “a place of horror” and “unprecedented mass crimes” (May 28, 2006). Let us purge our own hearts of the evil of harshness, which brings down such misery on our own soul.
  2. St. Maximilian Steps Forward:The Lord’s answer to Peter in this Gospel, “not seven times but seventy-seven times,” points to a heroic living of the virtue of charity and forgiveness. St. Maximilian Kolbe, whose feast we celebrated this week, gives us an example of that kind of love. When the commander had picked out his ten victims, St. Maximilian had been passed over. No doubt the others who were spared were breathing intense sighs of relief. Instead, St. Maximilian stepped forward and offered to take the place of one of those chosen, Franciszek Gajowniczek, who cried out in anguish over his family. We can only shake our heads in amazement that the flame of love could burn so brightly in that “place of horror.”
  3. The Cross Sets the Standard:The examples of the saints challenge us. They don’t give us a “superhuman” example, but rather the testimony of what men and women are capable of doing when they allow the grace of God to work in their souls. We, too, have many occasions when we are called to live a higher degree of virtue, but so often we cut ourselves a little too much slack. When Peter asked about a seven-fold forgiveness, he was being quite generous. But the “seventy-seven times” that Jesus speaks about is measured against the Cross, the symbol of the Lord’s infinite love and forgiveness. Saints like Kolbe understood this. Let’s try to imitate it today, in ways both big and small.

Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, I can only be amazed at your work through the soul of St. Maximilian Kolbe. You enabled him to lay down his life for another, in imitation of your own self-sacrificing love. Help me to embrace the same path of love and forgiveness.

Resolution: I will immediately forgive any wrongs I suffer today, and I will try to sacrifice myself in a hidden way for someone else.

© 1980-Present. The Legion of Christ, Incorporated. All rights reserved. Reproduced with Permission of Copyright Owner.

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See Today’s Readings:  Year I,   Year II

Back to: Thursday of the 19th Week of the Year

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