XXIV Sunday in ordinary time

XXIV Sunday in ordinary time

Ven, 11 Set 20 Lectio Divina - Anno A

Sirach. 27:30-28:7, Roman 14: 7-9, Mt 18: 21 - 35

The theme of today’s liturgy of the Word is how we deal with a person who has offended us. What should be the quality of our forgiveness? By answering to Peter “as many as seventy – seven times”, Jesus wants to communicate to him that there are no limits to the willingness to forgive. For him, there is no limit to love, forgiveness and mercy. However, our forgiveness of our brethren is the condition of God’s pardon for us. Only a forgiving spirit can receive forgiveness.

 

MERCY BEGETS MERCY

The primary concern of the first reading of today is to highlight the dangers of personal integrity and friendship. The betrayal of secrets can ruin a friendship, and very well might make reconciliation with the injured party impossible. Sirach reprehends the insincerity of conduct towards those you are having discourse with, and the twisting of their word into a meaning not intended by them,, and he insists that the Lord hates such a man. 

The passage from the book of Sirach tells us that as the Lord in his mercy forgives and forgets our offences, we too must be ready to offer forgiveness to those who offend us. The book of Sirach provides the most comprehensive example of Wisdom literature preserved in the Bible. The book contains moral, cultic and ethnic maxims, proverbs, psalms of praise and the lament, homiletic exhortations and pointed observations about life and customs of the day. For this reason, this book has been popular with both Jews and Christians. Today’s reading focuses on justice and mercy which are the two basic attributes of God. Those who seek vengeance on others will have to face the justice of God. Those who seek God’s mercy must be willing to show mercy to others. As a further motivation for forgiveness, we are urged to remember the end of our own lives and the commandments of God’s covenant. Only those who deal mercifully with others can expect mercy from God.

 IN LIFE OR IN DEATH WE BELONG TO CHRIST

This text is interpreted for us by the section of the Epistle to the Romans in which it is found. That section is devoted to the clarification of the principles by which the early Christians were to be guided as to their observance or non-observance of particular festival days, and as to their abstinence or non-abstinence from certain kinds of meats and drinks. To understand the matter fully we must have a clear perception of the difficulty with which the Apostle was seeking to deal.

St. Paul comes to speak of the influence of conduct upon others, but here there is no such thing in view; the prominence is given to “the Lord,” three times named in verses 8 shows that the one truth present to his mind is the all-determining significance, for Christian conduct, of the relation to Christ. This preferably determines everything, alike in life and death; and all that is determined by it is right.

This short passage forms part of the advice that Paul gives to the community in Rome. Paul counsels the Christians of Rome to welcome fellow Christians to be the ‘weak’ or ’strong’, but especially the “weak”. They too stand before the Lord, no matter what they eat or what they celebrate, for all have to stand before God’s tribunal one day. In the light of what God has done for us in Christ, the Christian cannot live to himself or die to himself. Everyone lives for something

Paul says that in life and death, the Christians exist to the Lord that is to praise honour and serve God, the creator and maker of all. Having said this Paul speaks about Jesus’s death and resurrection. Paul formulates the finality of the passion death and resurrection of Christ, stressing his sovereignty and lordship over the dead and the living.

“To this end, Christ died, and lived again, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.” The Apostle is speaking of the duty of all Christians to judge one another charitably, and grounding it on this fact that it is not to himself, but the Lord, that every Christian lives and dies and performs all his actions. We, therefore, in judging another, are judging the servant of a far higher master, to whom, and to whom alone, he stands or falls. And the proof of this is the fact that we are not our own.

THE UNFORGIVING SERVANT MEETS A BITTER END

The parable of the unforgiving servant depicts the forgiveness of God, the necessity for us to forgive because God forgives, and the warning of the judgement on those who refuse to forgive. The parable is again the mercy of God, which is one of the strongest divine qualities. It further ends by calling us to be merciful, as we have received mercy. Mercy is deeper than forgiveness; it sees into the heart of the other and walks around for a while in the other shoes. It includes compassion and active healing. To live in an environment of mercy is to live in an atmosphere of peace, healing and growth. Forgiveness goes beyond the existing facts. It recognizes the deeper goodness in people despite what they have done. Forgiveness means pardoning and letting go completely

 The main point of the parable is that the debt that the servant has incurred is so high that no possibility exists paying it... The parable intends that God’s prior action of mercy and forgiveness be extended to other people. Unfortunately, forgiveness and mercy are often least at home in our society and forgiveness is viewed as a sign of weakness. The society also cheapens forgiveness so that sin is treated lightly, but the focus on the judgement in Jesus parables wants that forgiveness brings with it call for reform. If forgiveness does not affect change, it is not experienced. Assisting a person to be free from an enslaving debt by people who can afford to do so would be an actualization of this gospel parable.

 Asking for forgiveness is an act of humility. Yet perhaps as challenging as asking for forgiveness is the granting of forgiveness. After all, forgiveness heals relationships by requiring us to let go, to turn the page, to refuse the right to hold on to bitterness and anger. Forgiveness, in short, sets things right again. Forgiveness is a powerfully healing force but also an incredibly difficult thing to receive or share.

As Jesus continues to emphasize forgiveness, let us humbly bring ourselves before God who forgives us everything, who loves us beyond any sin and ask Him to give us the grace to forgive from the heart as we are unable to do it by ourselves.