Shikrot Mpwi – Sunday Synopsis with Fr. Justine J. Dyikuk Twenty Fourth Sunday of the Year, A – September 17, 2023
Readings: Ecclesiasticus 27:33-28:9; Responsorial Psalm Ps 102:1-4,9-12; Rom 14:7-9 & Gospel Matthew 18:21-35.
Theme: The Power of Forgiveness
The first reading discloses that resentment and anger are bad behaviours associated with the sinner. It also reveals that if we forgive, God would forgive us. In the second reading, St. Paul affirms the need for us to be considerate towards others by stating that the life of each one of us has an influence on the other. In the gospel, Jesus demands that we forgive and forget and not act like the debtor who was forgiven a huge sum but throttled his debtor’s throat for owing a little. Our liturgy implies that forgiveness is pay as you go!
Beloved in Christ, our liturgy presents us the need for forgiveness. It urges us to position our lives towards relating with God and our neighbour as exemplified by Christ. The readings remind us about the crucial place of anger management in the life of the believer. More realistically, our liturgy reveals that it is the measure that we give that we receive.
Background and Summary of the Readings
The first reading (Ecclesiasticus 27:33-28:9) discloses that resentment and anger are foul behaviours associated with the sinner. It warns that he who exacts vengeance will himself experience vengeance from the Lord who keeps strict records of sin. The reading states that the only criterion for enjoying divine forgiveness is forgiving the wrong our nieghbour does to us. It charges us to remember the four last things – death, judgment, heaven and hell noting that this would help us to stop hating in order to fulfill God’s commandments.
In the second reading (Rom 14:7-9), St. Paul reveals that the life and death of each of one us has an influence on others – this means that we cannot be indifferent about how we treat others or their feelings. Since Christ’s life has a great impact on salvation history, St. Paul challenges us to do same by impacting lives positively through forgiveness.
In the gospel (Matthew 18:21-35) Christ insists that we forgive and not act like the man who was forgiven his debt but went ahead to throw his debtor in prison demanding that he pays the debt. Jesus warns that this is how God would deal with each of us if we do not forgive each other from our hearts. This means that anger must give way for forgiveness.
Forgiveness: The Mandela Example
Nelson Mandela told the story of what happened shortly after he became president. On this fateful day, he asked some members of his close protection to stroll with him in the city for lunch in a nearby restaurant. While there, they sat and asked to be served. As the waiter brought their requests, he said: “I noticed that there was someone sitting in front of my table waiting for food. I then told one of the soldiers to go and ask him to join us with his food. The soldier did as I directed and the man brought his food and sat by my side and began to eat. His hands were trembling constantly until everyone finished their food. When the man left, one of the soldiers said to me, ‘Sir, the man looks quite sick because I noticed that his hands were trembling as he ate!’”
Mandela replied: “No, not at all. That man was the guard of the prison where I was jailed. Often, after the torture I was subjected to, I used to scream and ask for a little water. The same man used to come every time and urinate on my head instead.” He concluded by saying: “So I found him scared, trembling, expecting me to reciprocate now. At least in the same way, either by torturing him or imprisoning him as I am now the President of the State of South Africa. But this is not my character; nor part of my ethics. The mentality of retaliation destroys [people and] states, while the mentality of tolerance [and forgiveness] builds nations. I say, treat others well because no one knows tomorrow.”
1. Be Slow to Anger, Rich in Mercy: Since the first reading stresses that resentment and anger are foul behaviours associated with the sinner, we are urged to shun them bearing in mind what the scripture says: “Do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27).
2. Learn to Forgive and Forget: Like the pay as you go model of marketing, our liturgy reveals that the measure we give is the measure (Matthew 7:2) – This challenges us to resist vengeance and keeping records of the sins of others because, in the first reading, the Lord assures that when we do these things and pray, our sins would be forgiven.
3. Remember the Last Things: The liturgy draws our attention to the four last things namely death, judgment, heaven and hell (Cf. CCC #1011-1023) which serves as a reminder to the fleeting nature of life as enough reason to stop hating and start keeping God’s commandments.
4. Impact the Life of Others: By stating that the life and death of each one of us has its influence on others, St. Paul implies that we must not be indifferent about how we treat others or their feelings bearing in mind that like the Mandela story, impacting the lives of others positively is a sine qua non.
5. Love without Counting the Cost: Our liturgy challenges us to learn from the man in the gospel who was forgiven his debt but went ahead to throw his debtor in prison demanding that he pays the debt; we ought to love without counting the cost – that is, you must learn to forgive without counting how many times.
1. The first reading discloses that resentment and anger are foul behaviours associated with the sinner.
2. In the second reading, St. Paul reveals that the life and death of each of us has its influence on others.
3. In the gospel Christ insists that we forgive and not act like the man who was forgiven his debt but went ahead to throw his debtor in prison.
4. Jesus warns that this is how God would deal with each of us if we do not forgive each another from our hearts.
5. Anger must give way for forgiveness.
In conclusion, we ought to develop a positive attitude towards managing anger. By the same token, we are urged to forgive limitlessly. It must be acknowledged that forgiveness is difficult. However, if we rely on the help of the Holy Spirit, we would be able to forgive and forget. Prayer, meditation, counseling and psycho-spiritual support are useful remedies for coping with the venom of anger and unforgiveness. May the Holy Spirit help us in fulfilling these coping-techniques through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.