Thursday of Week 19 of Ordinary Time – Gospel

Commentary on Matthew 18:21 – 19:1

The last part of the discourse on the church is about 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. Understand that ten thousand talents then would be the equivalent of hundreds of millions in a major currency today, and the 300 denarii would have been the equivalent about three months’ wages.

In the gospel, 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 much easier to fully complete when reconciliation has taken 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 sentence of chapter 19:

When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan.

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