24th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A 12th / 13th September, 2020

Jesus’ teaching about the need to settle the conflict, the basis of last week’s gospel, was a surprising summons for Christians to fly in the face of accepted standards of judgement and condemnation. Here the teaching becomes even more outrageous! There is no end to the forgiveness offered. For the average person, represented by Peter, forgiving another person seven times would show a very substantial commitment to mercy. Seven is used in the Bible to signify perfection, so Peter is not being mean in his suggestion. This is a very reasonable degree of tolerance. Yet Jesus, in his parable of the servant who is forgiven a debt equivalent to millions but cannot forgive his fellow a lesser sum, turns our human understanding of what constitutes a fair thing on its head. God’s forgiveness is prodigious, but it is dependent on our willingness to forgive each other in the same way. The inability or unwillingness of the servant to match the master’s forgiveness provides a powerful contrast. The master forgives in compassion, but the servant resorts to violence. If one has truly experienced the loving forgiveness of God, it must be shared with others.