1st Reading – Sirach 27: 30; 28: 7 & The Gospel – Matthew 18: 21-35
Both of these readings this week are about forgiveness: God’s mercy toward us and our mercy toward each other.
From Barclay’s Daily Study Bible Series on Mathew:
It is Rabbinic teaching that a man must forgive his brother 3 times. The 4th time they do not forgive. This is based on a Biblical truth in Amos where there were a series of condemnations on various nations; God forgave 3 times and then punished the sinner in the 4th. Since we are not to be more gracious than God, forgiveness was limited to 3 times. Peter thought he was being generous by saying 7 times, but Jesus says 70 x 7, which really means unlimited.
From Living Liturgy, Year A, 236-237:
The ‘large amount’ in the gospel is literally 10,000 talents or 100,000,000 days’ wages, an unthinkably large amount. (John Pilch says that 10,000 talents would require more than 164,000 years of work, seven days a week.) The smaller amount is 100 denarii or 100 days wages. The exaggeration is meant to remind us how much we should be in awe of the God’s gracious forgiveness.
The Hebrew word for forgiveness means to lift and carry away; the Greek word means to send forth. Both words tell us that forgiveness puts transgressions and their hurt at a distance – or out of our mind and focus. We put the hurt at a distance so we can get on with healing and life-giving relationships.
Pheme Perkins reflects like this:
God’s forgiveness of us is not primarily concerned with getting himself loved, a two-party reciprocal relationship. The parable is not meant to imply that I have some set of obligations to God . . . rather, it suggests that the experiences we have of compassion, forgiveness, mercy, extra assistance, and so on are meant to be directed outward. They are not relationships to be shaped solely on the legal model . . . the first servant’s experience of forgiveness should have changed his own behavior . . . divine forgiveness is like that – it is so unequal that it must be applied in transitive fashion to other relationships. And, the issue is how I treat the other, not how I feel about the other.
JC Arnold’s Why Forgive?: Certainly forgiveness is sometimes given and received lightly, or used to whitewash the ugly underside of life. But such forgiveness has no staying power. Even the most genuine declaration of forgiveness will wear thin if it is not accompanied by a change of heart (see end of Gospel reading), both in the forgiver and the forgiven. In other words, it must cost something if it is to have any lasting effect. There is, moreover, little value in seeking forgiveness if we let it touch us only momentarily and then slide back into the same behavior that required an apology in the first place. It is true that forgiveness is a gift and that it comes with no strings attached. But it is a useless one unless we let it change us for the better (p. 131-132).
The 2nd Reading – Romans 14: 7-9
From: “Feeling and Pain and Prayer” by Margaret Bullitt-Jones
The question is whether we are willing to let God in on the depth of our anger and sorrow and anxiety and shame. Are we willing to disclose these parts of ourselves to God? What if God yearns to know and to enter not only our warm and loving feelings, but the depth of our anger and sadness and fear and doubt? What if God not only tolerates, but actually welcomes, the expression in prayer of our true selves, including those feelings that we tend to hide away and repudiate and despise?
C.S. Lewis once observed that “the prayer preceding all prayers is ‘May it be the real I who speaks. May it be the real Thou that I speak to.’” If this is so, then our intention in prayer is to be our real selves and to encounter the real God. As Hart pointedly puts it, “The first principle of prayer is to be yourself. Prayer is being yourself before God.” Getting real involves opening to the truth of what we feel.
Our parish was supposed to have a gathering tonight on Stories of Forgiveness in the Old Testament, but it was cancelled. We are going to discuss at our Scripture Group tomorrow at 2pm in the Rosa Road Community Room in case you are free. This online article is the outline. Here it is for at-home enrichment:
1st Reading: Acts of the Apostles 3: 13-19
Jesus is called the “author of life” – what does that mean for you? Mary Birmingham points out that this term is a very ancient Christian term. The Greek word for ‘author’ means “captain” or “leader.” Jesus is the new leader, the new captain of life’s vessel, who leads the people, just like Moses, out of bondage into a new promised land – Jesus is the fulfillment of the liberation foreshadowed at the Exodus event – Jesus is the fulfillment of all that God has ever planned for humankind. (W&W Wrkbk Yr B, 363-364)
St. John of the Cross said, “The soul lives where it loves.” Think about that. Jesus lived here among us because of love. And that is why he died too. Are we supposed to feel this tremendous guilt that Jesus had to do this for us? I don’t know if God wants us to feel that way. Jesus only reaches out in love, only wants to repent and turn to him. He doesn’t want us wallowing in our guilt and self-loathing. He wants us to embrace the love. Let our souls live in that love. How can we be different living that way?
2nd Reading: 1 John 2: 1-5
What does it mean to you to call Jesus an “Advocate” – a parakletos ? An advocate is someone who pleads our case before a court of law – one who intercedes for us. It is someone whom we call to be by our side as our helper and counselor. It is someone who “lends his presence to his friends.” Jesus is this kind of friend. (Wm Barclay, The Letters of John and Jude, 36-38)
Jesus is also called our ‘expiation’ for sin – here we must be careful of the meaning. In the Jewish sense, sacrifice was used to restore our relationship with God. It was God forgiving us and providing the means of restoring our relationship with God. Scholars also point out that the word could be translated as ‘disinfection’: Jesus shows us what God is like and disinfects us from the taint of sin – from the darkness and bondage of sin. Jesus is the reconciliation, the means, by which God reassures us of His love. And as this writer, John, sees it – this work of Jesus is carried out not just for us, but for the whole world.
The love of God is broader than the measures of our human mind. God’s salvation has wide enough arms for all. (Wm Barclay, The Letters of John and Jude, 39-40))
The Gospel: Luke 24: 35-48
From Living Liturgy, 2003, 120:
Jesus “was made known” in the breaking of the bread and in repentance and forgiveness. Forgiveness, then, is an encounter with the risen Christ . . . it is our witness to the resurrection: “I forgive you.” Our belief is not some elite intellectual exercise but an embodied faith expressed in actions. We need to walk and talk like a forgiven people. Repentance-and-forgiveness is not just for Lent; it is Easter-activity! Forgiveness is a virtue that enables us not to allow past hurts to determine our decisions and actions in the here and now. Forgiveness opens up the space for creating together with the one forgiven a new future . . . It allows for new life – calls for new life and new possibilities.
Think of all this and pray for God’s Spirit to enliven and guide us as we are sent out at the end of our Eucharist “to love and serve the Lord.” (Birmingham, W&W Yr B, 365-373)
The gospels struggle with expressing the risen reality. It was not just another phase in the history of Jesus of Nazareth. In a real sense he was totally “other”, living now the indescribable life of God. And yet he was the same person and in some ways objectively identifiable. However, the resurrection was known principally by its fruits, the faith proclamation of unlettered fishermen. It changed people’s lives and continues to do so. To watch people move from a state of alienation to conversion and a new direction in life is the clearest proof of the risen Christ (Faley, R. Footprints on the Mountain, p, 309).