Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 13, 2020 

Forgiving is not nearly as much fun as being forgiven. This may have been why Peter approached Jesus and asked how many times he had to forgive someone. Jesus replies with a parable. The first debtor in the parable owed the king a huge amount and the king is on the verge of selling him, his wife, his children, and all his property in payment. The debtor pleaded with the king. The king's compassion went so far as to forgive the whole loan.


Then the first debtor ran into a fellow debtor, one who owes the first debtor a smaller amount. What we expect the first debtor to do is to extend the king's generous forgiveness to the second debtor. But he doesn't do that. Instead he has him thrown into prison.


Another parable. Once a wise man was traveling from village to village when he was stopped by a bandit, who threatened him with death. The wise man, seeing the sharp sword, asked the bandit if he would be good enough to grant him a dying wish. "Cut off the branch of that tree", he asked. With a single slash of the sword, the bandit cut it off. "What now?" asked the bandit. "Put it back again", said the wise man. The bandit laughed. The wise man said: "You must be crazy to think that you are mighty because you can wound and destroy. That is the task of children. The mighty know how to create and heal."


We often think of strength in this world as control. I can make this happen. I can keep that from happening. I can make you pay for your sins. I can put you in jail so you cannot do that to me or anyone else ever again. This is real power. so this world says.

But a greater strength is found in freedom. I don't have to control you. You can wound me 7 times 70 times but you can't take away my freedom to forgive you. You can't force me to become like you. Whether you pay for your sins or not, I refuse to let you make me into a victim of your wrath or greed or envy. This is heavenly power. When Jesus tells the paralytic, "Get up, pick up your mat and go home", he is the Son of God acting "with authority on earth to forgive sins." This is Jesus praying on the cross, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing."


In conclusion, it is the work of the weak to be violent and hurtful and selfish. This is the cover-up for weakness. Only a really great person, like the king, is strong enough to go above and beyond the call of duty, to forgive the whole debt, without even being asked.


Sunday Readings

Sirach 27:30—28:7

Remember the covenant of the Most High, and overlook faults.

Romans 14:7–9

Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.

Matthew 18:21–35

Jesus answered, “I say to you,not seven times but seventy-seven times.