This Sunday we celebrate the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time. In the Gospel we hear Peter come to Jesus with a question about forgiveness. In preparation for Sunday Mass, I invite you ponder the following reflection.
“Though chapter 13 in Matthew is commonly known as the “parables chapter,” for the seven parables Jesus speaks, we find parables in a few other places in the gospel; and today’s gospel reading is one example. The story of the unrepentant debtor is unique to Matthew. Though the opening verses of today’s gospel find an echo in Luke 17:4, the parable is unparalleled.
The story is simple but profound. One who owed the king an inordinate sum (10,000 talents is hyperbole equivalent to our saying “a hundred million dollars”) has no chance of paying it off. He will never earn that much and therefore he is essentially placed in debtors’ prison, after all his assets, his very person, and his family were sold for cash value. The king, hearing the pleas of mercy, relents and releases the man from his debts and from prison. The king was moved by pity.
Then, the same man finds one who is in debt to him (a denarius was about a day’s wage for a laborer). This debtor appeals to the man who was just forgiven, using language that sounds eerily familiar. But rather than be moved by pity as the king was and emulate the forgiveness he was shown, the man who now finds himself in a position of power casts the poor debtor in prison. The king’s servants report all this to the king, who is infuriated at the aborted forgiveness. “Should you not have had pity?” is the terrifying question that sends the man not merely to prison but to the torturer for what is effectively eternity.
The lesson for us could not be clearer. We who have been forgiven are to forgive others. It is the Lord’s Prayer that is found in this gospel as well: “forgive us as we forgive those . . .” The Lord’s forgiveness is freely given, but it may be taken back if we do not emulate this same forgiveness in our own lives. The final words of the gospel are a haunting reminder that we may face the same fate as the one handed over to torturers if we do not forgive “from the heart.”
Grudges are awful things. They can gnaw away at the one harboring them. We may hear “forgive but don’t forget” as a way to remind ourselves of past transgressions we’ve suffered. But today’s gospel calls us to a higher standard. The forgiveness we’ve experienced (worth a hundred million dollars – something we cannot repay) should motivate us to be free with forgiveness when others wrong us. We cannot dole out forgiveness in infinitesimal pieces only to those we deem worthy once some rectification has been made. Instead, forgiveness ought to be given freely. We must die to the grudges, slights, rudeness, and other transgressions we’ve suffered and rise to a sense of freedom that comes through forgiving as we’ve been forgiven. Jesus himself warns us in a negative way (via negativa) that if we withhold forgiveness, it will be withheld from us. And the consequences of that are severe indeed.” (Living Liturgy 2020)
This week we begin the celebrations of the 1st Reconciliations and 1st Communions for the Grade 3 students from our 5 elementary schools who were not able to receive these Sacraments in the spring due to the COVID-19 shutdown. The 4:00pm Sunday Masses from September 13 – October 18 (excluding the weekend of October 11, Thanksgiving), have been reserved specifically for these students and their families to attend. Please pray for our young students to come to the knowledge and appreciation of whom they receive into their hearts through these Sacraments, our Lord Jesus Christ. May He be their sustenance in this life journey, till they and all of us reach the Kingdom of Heaven.
A reminder about the email that I sent this past Monday: we have a great opportunity to participate in the upcoming online Bible study from Ascension Press at home for the next 8 weeks, starting this Wednesday, September 16. For addition information please refer to that email.
Our Children’s Liturgy team will once again be producing a new weekly virtual liturgy video geared to kids in Junior Kindergarten – Grade 2 starting next Sunday, September 20, and will continue to do so until Children’s Liturgy is able to resume in person. The videos will become available to watch on the parish YouTube channel each Sunday morning. Each one will include prayer, readings of the day, a short lesson or message based on the Gospel, a challenge of the week, and a trivia question that kids can answer for the chance to win prizes! Please encourage the little ones in your life to tune in!
For those who cannot join us at Mass at this time, we will livestream the 9am Sunday Mass with the Rosary starting at 8:30am. Come and pray with us for the end of pandemic. Click on the picture provided below to access the livestream.