For the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – September 17, 2017

Liturgical Color – Green (Stands for Growth, hope, life.)
Purpose – To recall the life of Christ, reminded that God is always there to help us live as Christians. 

(Cycle A) – Matthew’s Gospel is used primarily during the Sunday Mass, Liturgy of the Word’s Gospel Reading.

The desired end result of true study of the Bible is to hear God’s voice. That is, to find Him in His word and understand His word so that it may generate in us both gratitude and obedience. Add to this that the Christian faith is not something to be enjoyed alone, but to be shared.

“A Christian’s longing should be to reflect the Lord to others.” (Charles Stanley)
“Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Philippians 1:27)

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time Theme: Be Kind and Merciful.

Both Reading 1 and the Gospel reading give us a strong message on forgiveness.  If we are to be like God, we must forgive each other over and over.  In Reading 2, Paul states that we are all God’s partners.

Being kind means to be of a good or caring nature or disposition as a person; having sympathy and consideration for others; given to anticipation of the needs and happiness of others.

Merciful means providing relief and compassionate treatment of those in distress; showing compassion and forgiveness to an offender or to one subject to one’s power.

  • Reading 1 – Sirach 27:30—28:9      Those who seek God’s mercy must be merciful toward others.
  • Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 103:1-4,9-12      A song of praise to God who is kind and merciful.
  • Reading 2 Romans 14:7-9      We belong to the Lord.
  • Gospel Matthew 18:21-35     Jesus teaches that we must forgive one another as God has forgiven us.

(This Bible Study’s primary references used are from St Joseph Sunday Missal (Themes), Loyola Press,,  Ascension Catholic Church Sunday Reflections, USCCB, Understanding the Scriptures by Scott Hahn,  St Thomas Aquinas’ Works, RSV Oxford Annotated Bible, Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, St Charles Borromeo Bible Studies, LUMINA Bible Study, The Franciscans St. Anthony’s Guild, and Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary.)

NOTE: To gain clarity of understanding in all of the following scriptural passages that have many inline footnotes, first read only the purple colored scriptural words in the passage. Then re-read the passage along with the green colored inline footnotes.

Reading 1     Sirach 27:30—28:9                  (The Need for Forgiveness)

Context – Sirach is one of seven Wisdom Books of the Bible (including: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Songs (aka. Song of Solomon), Ecclesiastes, and Wisdom of Solomon (aka. Wisdom) ). It’s one of the Books of the Apocrypha, and was written in 180 BC by a teacher of Old Testament law. It is a work of ethical teachings from approximately 200 to 180 BC. The teachings are applicable to all conditions of life: to parents and children, to husbands and wives, to the young, to friends, to the rich, and to the poor. Many of them are rules of courtesy and politeness; and a still greater number contain advice and instruction as to our duties toward ourselves and others, especially the poor, as well as toward society and the state, and most of all toward God.

Today’s Reading – If we do not forgive one another, what right have we to ask God to forgive us? The refusal to forgive and our tendency to seek revenge are in themselves a manifestation of sin, warns Sirach.

Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight. The vengeful will suffer the LORD’s vengeance, for He remembers their sins in detail. (See PAUSE, below) Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven. Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing (forgiveness) from the LORD? Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself, can he seek pardon for his own sins? If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath, who will forgive his sins? Remember your last days, set enmity aside; remember death and decay, and cease from sin! Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor; remember the Most High’s covenant, and overlook faults.

PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           “The vengeful will suffer”Self-defense was allowable, but love was not to be laid aside. Exodus 21:24 – ” eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot”. This Old Testament principle is that the punishment must fit the crime and there should be a just penalty for evil actions. Excessive harshness (i.e. vengefulness) and excessive leniency should be avoided. In Matthew 5:17  Jesus said – “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law [i.e. Ten Commandments] or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” So, when He said in Matthew 5:39 – “When someone strikes you on [your] right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.”, He did not negate the above Old Testament principle because His concern was to add to it forgiveness and mercy. (See THEME).

The scripture lessons and parables generally assume that all parties in the Gospel narrative are fundamentally good people who try to be and are open to becoming ever-more reasonable, balanced, and just. The Gospel is not about terrorists or extremists. Terrorists and extremists, past and present, tend to be neither reasonable, nor balanced, nor just. Terrorists are anti-Gospel. (From The Franciscans St. Anthony’s Guild)

Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 103:1-4,9-12                         (God’s Mercy)

Today’s Psalm –  This psalm is a meditation on the merciful face of God, which the Israelites have come to know so well through their history of sin and forgiveness.

R. – The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger (God’s anger prolongs itself, allowing for people to repent before punishment is inflicted.), and rich in compassion.
Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all my being, bless His holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.
R. – The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.
He pardons all your iniquities, heals all your ills. He redeems your life from destruction, crowns you with kindness and compassion.
R. – The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.
He will not always chide, nor does He keep His wrath forever. Not according to our sins does He deal with us, nor does He requite us according to our crimes.
R. – The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.
For as the heavens are high above the earth, so surpassing is His kindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west
(See PAUSE, below)
, so far has He put our transgressions from us.
R. – The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.

PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           “As far as the east is from the west” – If someone travels north or south they finally arrive at a pole from which they can proceed no farther north or south. However if someone travels east or west, they never reach such a point. God did not say He forgives our sins as far as the North is from the South but as far as the East is from the West, namely, infinitely.  

 Reading 2.     Romans 14:7-9                          (God’s Partners)     

Context – Paul’s Letter to the Romans is the most influential of all his Epistles, and the only writing of Paul’s which is addressed to a church (congregation) which he did not establish. He addresses the grounds we have for hope in Christ. Sin and death came by Adam: grace and life by Christ. The saving work of Jesus is a major theme of Paul’s letter to the Romans – salvation is offered through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Today’s Reading – In all we are, in all we say, in all we do, we are the Lord’s. Therefore, that belonging to the Lord inspires and influences us in all things, among all peoples, in every situation, in all places.

Brothers and sisters: None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s (See PAUSE, below). For this is why Christ died and came to life, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           “we are the Lord’s” – The liberating act of Christ freeing human beings from bondage to the Mosaic law (all of its 613 specific commands), sin, and death, has enabled us to live for God (Christians belong to Christ in both life and death, having been purchased at the price of His blood.). This implies the service of God in all things; it is also the basis of a Christian’s social obligations. “This means that we are not free to do what we want but free to do as we ought.” – Saint John Paul II.

Gospel     Matthew 18:21-35                (Forgiving Our Neighbor)

Context – Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His purpose was to  prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. To accomplish his mission He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel.

Today’s Reading – The story opens with Peter seeking to put limits on forgiveness. Jesus tells Peter: God does not put  limits on how often He forgives; neither must you put limits on how often you forgive others. Jesus tells us a parable to reinforce His point and to show how forgiveness freely given can be lost if not freely shared. The King in the story is God and we are the servants.  In failing to imitate his master, the servant is severely judged and reprimanded. God is like a King who expects His servants to offer each other the same mercy that He has shown them. To experience the reign of God is to experience the mercy of God in such a powerful way that we are, in turn, able to extend to others the same mercy God has given to us. We must fervently pray for strength to resist the temptation of getting even with those who have hurt us and pray for the grace to reflect the majestic generosity of the Kingdom of God.

Peter approached Jesus and asked Him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?” (St. Peter knew the Jews of that time to be much given to revenge; he therefore thought it a great proof of superior virtue to be able to forgive seven times.)  Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt. At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’ Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan. (This gives us an idea of the immense value of the forgiveness we receive from God when we go to Him in confession.)

  When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison until he paid back the debt. Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will My heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.” (Those whom God has forgiven must forgive as God has forgiven them. This demonstrates true humility. This forgiveness must be real, not pretended; from the heart, and not in word and appearance only; sacrificing all desire of revenge, all anger, hatred and resentment, at the shrine of charity.)

PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           Let us imitate Joseph, who though reduced to a state of the most abject servitude, by the hatred of his unnatural brethren, yet in the affliction of his heart, employed all his power to succor them in their afflictions. Let us imitate Moses, who after a thousand injuries, raised his fervent supplications in behalf of his people. Let us imitate the blessed Paul, who, though daily suffering a thousand afflictions from the Jews, still wished to become an anathema (punished for the Jews disbelief in Jesus) for their salvation. Let us imitate Stephen, who, when the stones of his persecutors were covering him with wounds, prayed that the Almighty would pardon their sin. Let us follow these admirable examples, then shall we extinguish the flames of anger, then will our heavenly Father grant us the forgiveness of our sins, through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ. (From St. Chrysostom)

The ultimate example of forgiveness is that of our Dear Lord Jesus Christ. In His humanity, as He hung on the cross, He said – “Father forgive them.”

Catechism 2843 – Thus the Lord’s words on forgiveness, the love that loves to the end, become a living reality. The parable of the merciless servant, which crowns the Lord’s teaching on ecclesial (suitable for use in a Church) communion, ends with these words: “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” It is there, in fact, “in the depths of the heart,” that everything is bound and loosed. It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession (a prayer for the offender).