Daily Reflection
September 12th, 1999
Larry Gillick, S.J.
Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality


The Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sirach 27:30-28:9
Romans 14:7-9
Matthew 18:21-35

 "Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight."  We easily agree to that saying from Sirach in our first reading for this Sunday's liturgy.  We agree, that is, until we feel less than loving towards someone who has hurt us.  In that case, our reactions and feelings are a matter of justice; we have a right to be angry and perhaps what may look like vengeance is really a chance to help that other person learn what being hurt is like so that he or she might not do such things again.

The prophet's sayings lead quite dramatically to the pointed gospel from Matthew.  Peter, the foil for many of Jesus' teachings, asks Him a rather simple and very human question, "Lord, if my brother sins against me,  how often must I forgive?"  Peter seldom gets the answer he expects and Jesus' response this time Peter gets hit with a biblical exaggeration and a little parable which is meant to confound Peter and embarrass us.

In hearing this reading we are called to reflect on being human enough to be hurt in many ways by others, and converted to the ways of Jesus that we can forgive, or at least desire to forgive.  As if the gospel were not enough.  Later in the liturgy we will all pray together, "Forgive us as we have forgiven others."  Conversion is such a relentless grace.

Being forgiven is a faith experience; even in the sacrament of Reconciliation we receive forgiveness through our faith in Christ's activity through the Church.  Doing the forgiving ourselves takes faith, even though there are feelings raging within us which may seem contrary to compassion.  Simply stated, we can feel hurt, vengeful, angry and resentful and for a long time, because feelings are just feelings.  Forgiveness of others is a faith act which though our feelings would move us one way, we move towards living, guided by mercy and not strictly personal justice.

Though we may be embarrassed by how often we seek being forgiven and how seldom we seek to forgive others from the heart, the readings do move our souls to desire to celebrate the unembarrasing salvific love of the merciful Jesus who has forgiven us all and each more than seventy-seven times, but the mission of extending that compassion to others is blest in our renew of His Eucharistic covenant.  We go in peace towards the communion table.  We go in peace towards the various tables of our lives.

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