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Call to worship
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 (Matt 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.
“Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive?”
To receive forgiveness can be cheerful for us.
We can feel great peace and joy, 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
“Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray,
your own sins will be forgiven.”
Lord, 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
“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.
“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.
Miserere Mei Deus
(Have Mercy on Me, O God)
Miserere mei, Deus: secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum, dele iniquitatem meam.
Amplius lava me ab iniquitate mea: et a peccato meo munda me.
Quoniam iniquitatem meam ego cognosco: et peccatum meum contra me est semper.
Tibi soli peccavi, et malum coram te feci:
ut justificeris in sermonibus tuis, et vincas cum judicaris.
Ecce enim in iniquitatibus conceptus sum: et in peccatis concepit me mater mea.
Ecce enim veritatem dilexisti:
incerta et occulta sapientiae tuae manifestasti mihi.
Asperges me hyssopo, et mundabor: lavabis me, et super nivem dealbabor.
Auditui meo dabis gaudium et laetitiam: et exsultabunt ossa humiliata.
Averte faciem tuam a peccatis meis: et omnes iniquitates meas dele.
Cor mundum crea in me, Deus: et spiritum rectum innova in visceribus meis.
Ne proiicias me a facie tua: et spiritum sanctum tuum ne auferas a me.
Redde mihi laetitiam salutaris tui: et spiritu principali confirma me.
Docebo iniquos vias tuas: et impii ad te convertentur.
Libera me de sanguinibus, Deus, Deus salutis meae:
et exsultabit lingua mea justitiam tuam.
Domine, labia mea aperies: et os meum annuntiabit laudem tuam.
Quoniam si voluisses sacrificium, dedissem utique: holocaustis non delectaberis.
Sacrificium Deo spiritus contribulatus: cor contritum, et humiliatum,
Deus, non despicies.
Benigne fac, Domine, in bona voluntate tua Sion: ut aedificentur muri Ierusalem.
Tunc acceptabis sacrificium justitiae, oblationes, et holocausta:
tunc imponent super altare tuum vitulos.
God have mercy on me:according to your great mercies’ sake.
With great tenderness; remove my transgressions.
Wash me from my guilt and then judge me.
Gather me to You, I will acknowledge my faults:
And my sin is ever before me.
Against You only have I sinned,
May I be justified by your words
The mightest are overcome by your judgements.
Indeed, I will testify to my sin.
Here, since you love mysteries, you teach me wisdom.
With hyssop, and wash me; whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness.
Hide your face from my sins:
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create a clean heart, O God;
and renew a right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your face;
and take not thy holy spirit from me.
Give me the joy of thy salvation, and strengthen me.
Teach thy ways, and sinners will return.
Rescue me from death, God, save me;
Lord, open my lips:
and my mouth will declare your praise.
For if Thou hadst desired sacrifice, I would indeed have given burnt offerings:
My sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit:
a heart contrite and humble.