God’s mercy is overflowing and limitless
Reflections on the readings for the Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (September 13, 2020): SIR 27:30–28:7; PS 103:1-2,3-4,9-10,11-12; ROM 14:7-9; MT 18:21-35
MISSIO offers “Preaching Mission,” as a homily help, providing connections to mission from the readings of Sundays, Feast Days and Holy Days.
“Peter approached Jesus and asked Him, ‘Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times’” (Matthew 18:21-22).
All the readings for today address God’s great mercy and forgiveness. We are called to respond to the compassion He shows us by offering the same to anyone who injures us. Moreover, we are expected to be as gracious with our mercy to others as we desire Him to be to us. Before we hear Jesus tell the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, we have an example of how many people, even those who sincerely follow our Lord, would think about how to deal with those who have hurt them. “Peter approached Jesus and asked Him, ‘Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times’” (Matthew 18:21-22). Peter probably assumed he was being generous in suggesting that we forgive up to seven times. But Christ’s answer makes clear that God’s mercy in not measured out in small doses – it is overflowing and limitless. This is surely what we wants for ourselves. Therefore we must offer this same gift to others.
The parable itself is unnerving. A king tells a servant who owes him a huge amount to settle his debt. The man cannot repay. So the king is ready to have him and his family and all his property sold to pay off the debt. But the servant pleads with the king for more time to pay him back. Instead, in his vast mercy, the king forgives the entire debt. At that moment, one can feel the great pity that moved the king for the servant who was unlikely to ever be able to repay him. And that is when we realize how unworthy that servant is, not because he was unable to pay what he owed, but because he himself was without mercy. He wanted to imprison another servant who owed him a far smaller amount. So then the king then exacted the terrible punishment that the servant had called down on himself. One of the first things we learn about our faith is that we are made in the image and likeness of God. If we will not forgive our brothers and sisters their failings from the depths of our heart just as our heavenly Father does, then we are not like Him – and He cannot recognize us as His own.