Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Bolton

Stay with us, Lord, on our journey

Cycle A

Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Matthew: 18: 21-35

"How often must I forgive?"

Peter takes for granted that the disciple of Jesus will be a forgiving person. The only question is - how forgiving? How many times must he forgive his brother who wrongs him? He suggests as much as seven times, already indicating a degree bordering on harmful indulgence. But to Jesus it is hopelessly inadequate: "not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times", in other words, beyond counting. What is paramount here is that the offending brother is to be considered not as an enemy or an outcast, but still as a brother, no matter how often he has offended, or how reprehensible his behaviour.

Before the values of the world this must appear simply ridiculous. But in fact it highlights the radical nature of the teaching of Jesus about the Kingdom, or Reign, of God. The values of the Kingdom transcend those of the world. The parables of Jesus open to us a realm of unparalleled love and forgiveness, inviting the whole of mankind into a sea of relationships with one another, rooted in the same spirit of love and forgiveness. So today, the reply of Jesus is categorical: one must always forgive.

With the parable of the unforgiving servant he sets out to show that God is merciful and that, like him, we too must be merciful. But, above all, the parable stresses that it is in the concrete circumstances of daily life, that we experience the mercy of God and are called to practice pardon and reconciliation in dealing with others. This calls for a new way of looking at life, a new way of living relationships. The power of “binding and loosing” given to the Church must reflect the utter mercy and compassion of God, not the legalistic and closed mentality and practice of the world.