• Rev. Lawrence E. Polansky

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

"I say to you, forgive not seven times, but seventy-seven times."

Entrance Antiphon: Sir 36:18 – “Give peace, O Lord, to those who wait for You, that Your prophets be found true. Hear the prayers of Your servant, and of Your people Israel.”

First Reading: Sir 27:30 — 28:7 – “Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12 — “The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.”

Second Reading: Rom 14:7-9 — “Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”

Alleluia: Jn 13:34 — “I give you a new commandment, says the Lord; love one another as I have loved you.”

Gospel: Mt 18:21-35 — “I say to you, forgive not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

Communion Antiphon: Ps 36(35):8 — “How precious is Your mercy, O God! The children of men seek shelter in the shadow of Your wings.”

Most of us live with some form of financial debt these days. We might have credit cards. It might be the mortgage or the car payment. Perhaps there are student loans that paid for our education. We’re used to debt and we’re used to getting statements reminding us to pay our debts. Of course, one of the great fears we have is that there may be circumstances in which we’re not able to repay what we owe.

Imagine, then, going to your mailbox and getting a note telling you that all your debts have been paid. In fact, they have been paid in full. My guess is that our first reaction would be, “Wow!” And then, after a few moments, being the wise and worldly people that we are, we might wonder, “So, where’s the catch?”

Think about that in light of this weekend’s Gospel, in which the servant’s huge, un-payable debt is kindly and fully forgiven by the king. While the servant seems to leave with a sense of relief, what he does not clearly understand is that there is a catch to all this. He, the servant, must forgive the debts of others, as he, the servant, has been forgiven by the gracious king. And that’s the catch for all of us: realizing that in His great mercy, God has forgiven our sins, and thus we are called to be a people of forgiveness to others.

I know it can be uncomfortable to focus on our sinfulness. We know it’s there, but we much prefer to focus on the good in ourselves. Yet every now and again, we have to stop and think about the reality that we do, in fact, sin. At the very beginning of the Mass, we acknowledge this reality as we ask for God’s mercy and forgiveness in the Penitential Rite. We realize that Jesus’ mercy is amazing, and in that realization, we come to know not only that we are forgiven, but that we must be generous in forgiving others.

In this weekend’s Gospel, we hear Jesus speak about the breadth of the forgiveness we are called to offer. We are called to forgive not just once and not just seven times. We are called to forgive seventy- seven times – in other words, we are called to forgive overwhelmingly, just as the king forgives the servant in the parable, and just as God forgives each of us.

Jesus leads the way in this, forgiving the woman caught in adultery, forgiving Thomas in his doubting and forgiving Peter for denying Him three times. Jesus forgave them and Jesus forgives us. How different would our world be if we practiced this kind of forgiveness constantly with one another?

The Eucharist we celebrate today is the first Sacrament of forgiveness. In it, we acknowledge our debts and through it we receive the Lord’s own gift of forgiveness. In the Eucharist, we come to know we are forgiven so we can go out into the world and be generous in loving and forgiving others.

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