The Gospel reading from the Mass for Thursday of the 19th Week of Ordinary Time is Matthew 18:21-19:1.

After Christ dictates how men are to correct their brothers who sin against them, Christ now teaches about forgiveness.  Peter, continuing to show why Christ chose him to be the leader of the Church, realizes the critical importance of forgiveness but asks Christ for more clarity about the limits of forgiveness.  Christ’s reply that His disciples must forgive “70 times 7” means that Christ demands unlimited forgiveness. Elsewhere, Christ reveals that a man’s own forgiveness depends on his willingness to forgive (The Lord’s Prayer : “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”) and Christ demonstrates the infinite magnitude of forgiveness from the Cross (“Forgive them Father for they do not know what they do.”).

Stressing the forgiveness imperative, Christ immediately follows His response to Peter with the parable of The Unmerciful Slave. A King (Christ) has riches and power so immeasurable that one of His slaves owes Him several billion dollars (10,000 talents in today’s values/200,000 years labor!).  The King’s reckoning of accounts (an allusion to the Judgment) requires that the servant, his whole family and all his possessions must be sold in partial payment of an almost infinite debt (each man’s sins). In desperation, the slave kneels and begs, promising to pay his impossible debt. The King, viscerally moved by the slave’s repentant plea, forgives the slave’s entire debt.

The newly freed slave, forgetting forgiveness, comes across another slave who owes him several thousand dollars (100 denarii/about three months wages). Despite the small level of debt, he chokes the man, demanding payment. The second slave, as did the first, fell to his knees and begged for time to pay his entire debt. Instead of mercy, the first casts the second slave into prison.  Fellow slaves report the injustice to the King who confronts the evil slave, rebuking him for his lack of mercy and turning him over to the jailers (literally, “torturers”) until the entire debt is paid, an impossibility (an allusion to the eternal torture of Hell).  Christ confirms: “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Awed by Jesus ChristDivine King, Christ describes His Kingdom, Authority and insights into how He rules. Divine Mercy, Christ describes the infinite mercy that God is willing to show the repentant. Divine Teacher, Christ gives a powerful parable that gives deep insight and sticks in the mind. Divine Judge, Christ offers a veiled preview of the judgment that awaits all, including allusions to the horror of Hell.

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) In the parable of The Unmerciful Slave, Christ gives a mysterious “God’s eye” view of His infinite Mercy but also His perfect Justice.  Reflect on God’s willingness to forgive the immense sins of repentant sinners and the just punishment that unrepentant sinners will face.

2) Like the Unmerciful Servant, each man has an infinite debt to God he can never repay (a man’s priceless value of being alive; countless sins of commission and omission). Reflect upon Forgive Us Our Trespasses (CCC 1439, 1441, 2839-2841) and marvel that Christ is willing to forgive the gravest sin in the Sacrament of Confession. Go to Confession as soon as possible, repenting in your heart for your sins and giving thanks for Christ’s Infinite Divine Mercy.

3) Christ’s call for unlimited forgiveness can seem impossible when someone commits a serious sin against a man (e.g. an unrepentant murderer of a man’s son; the rape of a wife or daughter); often deep divisions form in families over much less serious sins. Review the need to Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us (CCC 1425, 2843-2845) and pray for Christ to send the Holy Spirit to help you forgive your “brothers (and or sisters) from your heart (CCC 368).”

Spiritual Practices – Include in Today’s Prayers

Sacred Mystery of Rosary – The Luminous Mysteries

Daily Devotion – The Holy Eucharist

Virtue of the Day – Fortitude

Corporal Work of Mercy – To shelter the homeless

Spiritual Work of Mercy – To bear wrongs patiently