- St. John's Church
Sunday, September 13 Readings
THIS WEEK’S READINGS
God Speaks to Families Through the Sunday Readings
Those who seek God's mercy must be merciful toward others.
The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger and rich in compassion.
We belong to the Lord.
Jesus teaches that we must forgive one another as God has forgiven us.
Background on the Gospel Reading
Today's Gospel reading directly follows last week's Gospel in which Jesus taught the disciples how to handle disputes and conflict within the Christian community. In today's reading Peter asks Jesus how many times one ought to extend forgiveness to another. Peter proposes a reasonable number of times, perhaps seven. Jesus replies by extending Peter's proposal by an enormous amount; not just seven times should one forgive, but 77 times. The parable of the unforgiving servant is Jesus' elaboration of His initial reply to Peter. Through the parable we come to understand the depths of God's mercy toward us and the results of our acceptance of God's forgiveness.
The king in the parable decides to settle accounts with his servants. We are told that one servant in particular owes the king an enormous sum of money. Despite the promise of the servant, it is unlikely that he would ever be able to repay the debt that he owes. The king is moved by the humility of the pleading servant and mercifully forgives the debt. Rather than displaying gratitude for this forgiveness, the servant confronts a fellow servant who owes him a small debt—a pittance when compared with the amount that was owed to the king. The unmerciful servant refuses the pleas of his fellow servant and sends the servant to prison.
A few other servants tell the merciful king about the actions of the unforgiving servant. The king punishes the servant because he refused to show the kind of mercy he had himself received from the king. Jesus concludes by indicating that this is how it will be with God and those who refuse to forgive one another.
There is a temptation to quantify forgiveness as Peter tried to do, but Jesus' point is that for-giveness is not about quantity—the number of times we extend forgiveness to another. In the parable the king's forgiveness is like God's forgiveness, and it transforms us, helping us to be as forgiving as God. The lesson is clear: If we hoard God's mercy while showing no mercy to others, we risk forfeiting the effects of God's mercy in our lives.
Children learn to trust God's mercy and forgiveness when they experience forgiveness from those closest to them. We hope that we model God's love and forgiveness within our family life. Today's Gospel reminds us that forgiveness is measured by its quality more than its quantity.
Invite your family to consider some recent times when family members sought the forgiveness of another. Ask if there were any statements made that put conditions on our forgiveness such as “I will play this game with you if you apologize for knocking over my blocks” or “I will accept your apology after you clean up your room.” Do we sometimes “keep count” or put conditions on our forgiveness of one another? This is something we may be doing without realizing it.
Read together today's Gospel, Matthew 18:21-35. Ask if we sometimes find ourselves sounding like Peter, concerning ourselves with quantity of forgiveness rather than offering forgiveness abundantly and unconditionally. Reflect upon the parable that Jesus tells. What does the servant do that makes the king so angry? He refuses to forgive his fellow servant the debt that he owes. Because we have all received God's forgiveness, God expects that we will also be forgiving toward others. Jesus' answer to Peter's question is found at the end of the parable. The number of times that we forgive one another is less important than the depth of our forgiveness. We must forgive one another from the heart.
Conclude in prayer together that God's love and forgiveness is evident in your family life. Pray together today's psalm, Psalm 103, or the Lord's Prayer.