HOMILY FOR THE 24TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR A BY FR. ISAAC ATTA MENSAH
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
First Reading: Sirach 27:30-28:7
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 103
Second Reading: Romans 14:7-9
Gospel: Matthew 18:21-35
Theme: Cancel The Debt
Cancellation of debt occurs when a creditor relieves a debtor from a debt obligation. In the business world it is normally the debtors who go to plead nay negotiate for payment or debt forgiveness from their creditors after filing for bankruptcy. The onus therefore lies on the creditor either to accept the payment plan or to relieve the debtor from the debt obligation. Our readings for today’s liturgy call on us to take the initiative of cancelling the debts of all those who are owing us ( all those who have wronged us).
Last week, the Church reminded us on the need for reconciliation through fraternal charity and mutual love. Today the Church once again invites us to reflect on forgiveness which is at the very heart of reconciliation and our Christian belief.
Explanation of the Text:
The first reading from the Book of Sirach deals with a compilation of sayings about resentment and anger (27:33). What the author talks about in this pericope is not necessarily getting angry but about the conscious nursing of anger and keeping record of a sin(28:33); just as creditors keep records of all their debtors. There are two things that the author calls our attention to: The brevity of life and commandment of God. Since we are mortal beings and are not God, we cannot hold onto grudges forever because even the immortal God does forgive and relent.
There is a popular saying that to err is human, while to forgive is divine. That is to say, that the one who sins acts humanly. This is because, it is part of our attributes as human beings to err or to sin against one another. On the other hand, the one who forgives acts divinely. This is because to forgive is to participate in God’s very nature since forgiveness is one of the key attributes of God. Another name for God is Mercy. This unique attribute of God is rechoed in the Responsorial Psalm.
The theme of forgiveness is picked again by Jesus in our Gospel reading when He was asked by Peter the number of times he should forgive. Peter proposed seven times and Jesus recommended seventy times seven. Seven as suggested by Peter is a perfect number but it is also the number of Sabbath. In (Gen2:3) it means “to cease” or “to stop”. This implies that to everything there must be a Sabbath; even for the holding of grudge. Thus one cannot hold on grudge beyond the Sabbath. It is in line with this that Paul mentioned that “Be angry, yet do not sin. Do not let sun set upon your anger”(Eph 4:26).
Notwithstanding this, another reason that the Israelites advance for the celebration of the Sabbath is that God freed them from bondage and slavery ( cf Dt 5:15). Therefore Sabbath is a time that people are set free. And this latter reason is what Jesus alluded to when he replied seventy times seven which is forty-nine. Forty-nine is the beginning of Jubilee year (cf Lev.25). It is the year in which captives are released and debts cancelled. It is therefore not surprising that Jesus immediately told a parable about the unforgiving steward who owed so much and was forgiven after pleading but failed to cancel the debt of his debtor who owed him a little.
Beloved in Christ we are being admonished at the end of the parable to forgive one another. Forgiveness as a matter of fact doesn’t excuse the behavior. Forgiveness rather prevents their behavior from destroying your heart. To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God had forgiven the inexcusable in you. We don’t live for ourselves that’s what Paul tells us in our second reading and so we must leave vengeance to God (cf Dt 32:25 & Rom 12:19), since we will all be judged by Him…..