This Sunday, the Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, the readings are about forgiveness and wrath. In the first reading we are urged to take the path of forgiveness rather than vengeance. Paul reminds us that whatever we do, we do for and with the Lord because we belong to Christ. In the Gospel reading we are reminded by Jesus that forgiveness of our brothers and sisters is not optional. By the very fact that we have been forgiven by God we are called to forgive others. God expects us to act toward others as he has acted toward us.
First Reading: Sirach 27:30-28:7
30 Wrath and anger are hateful things,
yet the sinner hugs them tight.
1 The vengeful will suffer the LORD’S vengeance,
for he remembers their sins in detail.
2 Forgive your neighbor’s injustice;
then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.
3 Should a man nourish anger against his fellows
and expect healing from the LORD?
4 Should a man refuse mercy to his fellows,
yet seek pardon for his own sins?
5 If he who is but flesh cherishes wrath,
who will forgive his sins?
6 Remember your last days, set enmity aside;
remember death and decay, and cease from sin!
7 Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor;
of the Most High’s covenant, and overlook faults.
NOTES on First Reading:
* 27:30-28:7 This reading deals with the need for forgiveness and the results of anger and wrath among the people and the results for the individual before God. The reading includes part of a poem (which runs from 27:28 to 28:1). The poem is marked by the inclusio, “vengeance,” in both the opening and closing. It probably was a commemoration of the story of Haman’s plot to kill Mordecai and the other Jews as told in the book of Esther. (See especially Esth 3::2-6.) Haman becomes the victim of his own “wrath” and “vengeance” (Esth 5:9; 7:99-10).
* 28:2-7 This duty to forgive and not to hold grudges is also expressed as a requirement in the New Testament (See Matt 6:12,14-15;18:32-35; 19:19; Mark 11:25; James 2:13).
Second Reading: Romans 14:7-9
7 None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. 8 For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For this is why Christ died and came to life, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.
NOTES on Second Reading:
* 14:7 None of us lives for himself. Jesus’ liberating act frees us from bondage to law, sin and death while it enables us to live for God (Gal 2:19). As a result we are to be in God’s service in all things and in every aspect of life. This service to God becomes the basis of life lived in the Christian community.
* 14:8 The word translated here as “Lord” is the same Greek word, “kyrios,” which was applied to both rulers and holders of slaves. It was also the Greek word used to translate the Hebrew word, “Adonai,” meaning “Lord” which had long been used as a substitute for pronouncing the name of God which was written in the Hebrew scriptures as, “Yahweh.” For Paul this is another way to emphasize the idea that all Christians belong to and are in relationship with the risen Christ as the Lord (Kyrios).
* Paul stresses the sovereignty of Christ over the living and the dead and expresses the finality of the passion death and resurrection of Jesus in establishing Him as the Lord of all.
Gospel Reading: Matthew 18:21-35
21 Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. 23 That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. 25 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. 26 At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’ 27 Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan. 28 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.’ 29 Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ 30 But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt. 31 Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. 32 His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. 33 Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ 34 Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. 35 So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”
NOTES on Gospel:
* 18:21-35 This final section of the discourse addresses the forgiveness that disciples are to give to their fellow disciples who sin against them. In effect, Jesus answers that forgiveness is to be given without limit when Peter asks how often forgiveness is to be granted. He then illustrates this with another parable of the kingdom, the parable of the unmerciful servant. Jesus warns that his heavenly Father will give those who do not forgive the same treatment that was given to the unmerciful servant in the parable. Although Matthew 18:21-22 correspond to Luke 17:4, the parable and the final warning are peculiar to Matthew. The parable is thought by many scholars to have originally belonged to another context as is suggested by the fact that it really does not deal with repeated forgiveness, which is the point of Peter’s question and Jesus’ reply. Matthew may have inserted it into this place in the Gospel to respond to a need of his local community.
* 18:21 Peter often gets a bad rap from this question. We must consider that the common rabbinic teaching of the time was that one had to forgive someone who sinned against you three times. Peter sees that generosity is called for and he doubles the requirement and adds one more, arriving at the symbolic number, 7. This number symbolically implies complete forgiveness. Jesus comes back with a number that is 7 plus seventy or completion multiplied times ten and added to completion. This implies a limitless willingness to forgive.
* 18:22 The Greek corresponds exactly to the Septuagint (ancient Greek text) text of Genesis 4:24. There is probably an intended allusion, by contrast, to the limitless vengeance of Lamech in the Genesis text. In any case, what Jesus demands of His disciples is limitless forgiveness.
* 18:23 Servants is a word used in the Old Testament to refer to slaves and to court officials or ministers. in this particular parable it could refer to tax gatherers or finance ministers.
* 18:24 The phrase translated in the NAB as “a huge amount” literally reads “a myriad of talents” (talanton, the highest number known in Greek arithmetical notation). The talent was a unit of coinage with a varying value depending on the metal (gold, silver, copper) with which it was minted and its place of origin. The silver talent was worth well over $1000.00 so the expression used here indicates a very large sum (over $10 million). In the New Testament, it is mentioned only here and in Matthew 25:14-30. In the Old Testament it appears often as a measure of weight.
* 18:26 This is an empty promise as the repayment of so large a debt is clearly beyond his power.
* 18:28 The words translated in the NAB as “a much smaller amount” literally reads, “a hundred denarii.” The denarius was the normal daily wage of a laborer. So this amounts to 100 days wages as a common laborer. There is an enormous difference between the two debts which serves to bring out the absurdity in the actions of the Christian who has received the great forgiveness of God and yet refuses to forgive the relatively minor offenses committed against him.
* 18:34-35 The Divine patience will eventually come to an end. God will eventually wait no longer for those who have not accepted the way of life of the Kingdom and will apply to them their own measures. This is a partial restatement of Mat 7:2; Mark 4:24;and Luke 6:38.
* 18:34 Since the debt is so big that it can never be paid, the torture would be endless.
* 18:35 The Father’s forgiveness has already been given. Those who refuse to imitate His forgiveness by their own, risk His wrath at the final judgment.</p