24th Sunday of Ordinary Time

God loves us so deeply And forgives us so completely. Such generous and bountiful love calls to be loving, honest and forgiving with others. If we want to follow Christ, we must be willing to forgive genuinely and continually.

  • To the point: The king did not do what the servant begged: “Be patient with me.” Instead, he immediately forgave the whole debt. Absolutely unthinkable! This overwhelming, unexpected, compassionate forgiveness of the king makes the servant’s behavior toward his fellow servant all the more despicable. It also helps us understand Jesus’ response to Peter’s question about how often we are to forgive one another. God’s forgiveness of us knows no limits and is always granted. Anything less is our forgiveness of one another brings the same judgment against us that Jesus renders against the “wicked servant.”
  • Connecting the Gospel (Matthew 18:21-35) to the first reading: The reading from Sirach asks, “Could anyone refuse mercy to another?” Yes! The servant in the gospel did. And so do we — all the time — but never God!
  • Connecting the Gospel to experience: Grudges among families, communities, nations are often passed on from generation to generation. For example, family feuds go on for decades during which time members do not speak to each other. The only thing that can break the cycle of hate, fear and disunity is the gift of forgiveness.

Centering prayers

The Gospel

(Matthew 18:21-35)  

“Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive?”

To receive forgiveness can be joyful for us.
We can be glad and at peace,
like walking out of jail!
But forgiving others, not so easy.
Jesus, please help us break those bonds
of our refusal to forgive! Grant us your strength
to remove our shackles.
Teach us to forgive others in the way that you forgive us.
Forgive and then forget. No strings attached.

The First Reading

(Sirach 27:30-28:7)

Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray,
your own sins will be forgiven.

Lord, loosen our grip. Do not let us clutch
wrath and anger so tightly.
Please help us let them go,
to forgive those who trespass against us,
or against your people or your planet.

The Second Reading

(Romans 14:7-9)

None of us lives for oneself.

Do we style ourselves as makers and masters?
God forbid such a fate. Oh, creator of everything that exists,
truly, you made us in love, no holding back.
Let us spend our lives loving you,
and our neighbor in you.

Copyright © 2023, Anne M. Osdieck

Art for reflection

“The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant”
by Jan van Hemessen (1548)

The Flemish painter depicts this parable tightly framed in a clustered office. In a triangular symmetry are seated four men.

The first is the Flemish king as recognized by his crown. His heart shaped facial feature is reminiscent of his unconditional love and mercy. He extends his compassion and kindness, forgiving the magnanimous debt of the servant pleading from across the table. The hourglass set above the king indicates the fragility of mortal behavior and life.

Next to the King are seated two noble burghers of Antwerp. The first is engaged in counting the clinking coins. The second has his eyes fixed on the king who points out to the book into which he is to pen down the decree of forgiveness. However, the King’s gesture calls to attention something beyond the closed frame of the room.

We are adverted to the cityscape outside the window. Time travels from the inside out. The unruly servant who just received the benevolence of the king goes on to do the contrary. He condemns his fellow servant, ‘grabbing him by his throat and choking him.’ He ignores his cries for mercy, imprisoning him.

However what skips his attention is the witnessing presence of the king’s courtiers above the little mount. They report the unjust attitude of the servant to the king. Subsequently, the merciless servant had to amend for his callousness and cruelty.

Through this painting the artist exploits the character of the Gospel to drive home a moral message. He makes vivid the words of the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.’ His work condemns malice and vengeance and exalts compassion and kindness.

Music seeking forgiveness

This Kyrie is a loving plea for God’s forgiveness. The music tenderly touches our hearts to reflect upon those places in our lives where we can find new freedom by our own forgiveness.

Music for reflection