Thursday of week 19 of Ordinary Time – Gospel


Commentary on Matthew 18:21-19:1

The discourse on the church (cont’d):

The last part of the discourse is on forgiveness. This is not unconnected with the previous section on excommunicating the unrepentant brother or sister. As soon as the brother/sister does repent, there must be forgiveness – not once but indefinitely, 77 times.

The reason is given in the parable which Jesus speaks about the two servants in debt. The one who had a huge debt to the king was forgiven but then refused to forgive a relatively trivial debt to a fellow servant. (Ten thousand talents would be the equivalent of hundreds of millions of a major currency today and the 300 denarii would be the equivalent about three months’ wages.)

The ones with the big debt to the king are clearly ourselves; the ones with the small debts to us are our brothers and sisters.

We do not expect God to forgive us once or twice or any limited number of times but every time. It is nowhere written that we have, say, only 10 chances of going to confession and, once our quota is used up, there is nothing left. But, if that is true of our relationship with God, it also has to be true in our relationships with others. We can never refuse an offer of reconciliation. And, we might add, forgiveness is only complete when reconciliation takes place.

This is not at all the same as turning a blind eye to wrongdoing. Yesterday’s text made that very clear. We are talking about healing divisions between people; we must never put obstacles in the way of that.

We have now come to the end of this discourse indicated by the first words of chapter 19: “When Jesus finished these words…”

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