Pop psychology teaches us that there are benefits to be harvested from a lifestyle that is forgiving. “Forgive and forget” , we are told. But there is more to being forgiving than just psychological equilibrium. When we forgive, we actually live out an aspect of the Paschal Mystery: we die to the hurts we have received from others so that we can be free to live as Christ lived, as we become a source of life for others too.
- Forgiveness From the Heart (Matthew 18:21-35)
- Sirach on Forgiveness: Doorway to the Lord’s Prayer
- Dr. Enright on Forgiveness
Guide to the Gospel
1. Take note of the following outline:
- Peter’s Question: how many times shall I forgive a brother who sins? (21)
- Jesus’ Response
- Initial response: seventy-times seven times (22)
- Parable of the Forgiving King and Unforgiving Servant
- Intro: A king discovers that a servant owes a lot (23-25)
- The servant pleads and the king showed him mercy by releasing him from the debt (26-27)
- The servant, in his turn, found out that a fellow servant owed him money (28)
- This fellow servant pleads to him, but the other one would not hear of it (29-30)
- The other servants who witnessed this reported the unforgiving servant to the king (31)
- The king summoned the unforgiving servant and threw him into prison (32-34)
- Jesus concludes his response: forgive from the heart.
2. Some elements of vocabulary
- a “talent” (talanton) in Greek is a very large amount of money. The servant owed the king ten thousand talents, an amount which is incalculable and a debt that would be impossible to pay.
- a denarius is equivalent to a day’s wage. The other servant owed the unforgiving servant a hundred denarii — equivalent to a hundred days’ work. Though difficult for a slave to pay, it can be paid. A hundred denarii is just a fraction of one talanton.
3. Observe the following similarities and contrasts
- the actions of the servant who owed 10,000 talents and the one who owed 100 denarii
- the action of the king to the servant who asked him forgiveness, on the one hand, and the action of this same servant to the one who owed him money
4. What do you think does Jesus mean by “forgiveness from the heart” based on the parable of the forgiving king and unforgiving servant?
Review of the Readings
The selection from Sirach is a collection of sayings that were brought together in view of the theme of vengeance, anger and forgiveness. Reflect on the sayings as separate sayings.
Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight. The vengeful will suffer the LORD's vengeance, for he remembers their sins in detail.
— What does the statement say about being vengeful?
Forgive your neighbor's injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.
— What line from the “Our Father” is similar to this?
Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the LORD? Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself, can he seek pardon for his own sins? If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath, who will forgive his sins?
— Do these lines have a theme that is similar to the gospel reading?
Remember your last days, set enmity aside; remember death and decay, and cease from sin! Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor; remember the Most High's covenant, and overlook faults.
— Why is death mentioned here? Why do you suppose “overlooking faults” is more to the advantage of one who will die?
Suggestion for the Lesson
1. In the previous Sunday, the gospel reading underlined reconciliation as constitutive of life in the community. Today, forgiveness is stressed. Forgiveness and reconciliation are integral elements of the life of the Christian. It is celebrated in the sacrament of reconciliation. The gospel we proclaim is also called “gospel of reconciliation and forgiveness”. Forgiveness of sins and reconciliation of men with God are the fruits of Christ’s death on the cross. How is this to be lived as our participation in the Paschal mystery of Christ?
2. We pray “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” How can we integrate forgiveness as an integral element of our Christian lifestyle?