Year A: 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel: Matthew 18: 21-35
Having been give the power to forgive, Peter tries to understand just what it means. Is forgiveness a once and for all thing - or is it something more than that?
In reply, Jesus tells the parable of the Unforgiving Servant.
Here is someone who could not pay a huge debt that he owed his master. The consequences are clear - he and his family are to be sold into slavery and all his possessions sold in order to pay the debt.
The prospect of such a future brings the man to his knees and his master is persuaded to have compassion on him and releases him from the debt.
We might expect his gratitude to overflow into the way he treats those who are indebted to him -but no. No sooner is he out of the room than he meets a fellow-servant who owes him a small amount. In contrast with the forgiving master, the servant tries to kill the debtor but then decides to throw him into prison.
Understandably, the other servants are angry about this and go to the master who, in his turn is furious. He calls the unforgiving servant back and this time carries through the threat of retribution.
It is a very stark warning that follows - this is how God will deal with us if we do not forgive others.
The gravest sin that the Unforgiving Servant committed was taking his release from debt for granted - and not as an example of how he should behave. We too can forget the greatness of the gift of forgiveness. Once we feel released from sin, we can forget how awful it felt when we were held bound by it. We can - in our feeling good about ourselves - be keenly aware of people who have hurt us and feel that we want to settle a few scores.
Jesus is making it clear that this is not acceptable!
We are to remember how it felt to be set free of the guilt of sin and pain - and then, in our turn, offer that to those who still carry it because of something they have done or said to us.
It is a radical idea... but imagine what the world would be like if everyone lived in this way.
What does it mean for me?
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