Lector's Notes
by Gregory Warnusz

First Reading

Proclaiming It: Reading that gospel passage is more important than usual for the lector’s preparation this week. Read it and dwell for a moment on the outrage you feel when that servant, forgiven so much, is so harsh with one who owes him so little. Imagine yourself in the master’s shoes, shouting “You worthless wretch!” (I like that old translation better than “You wicked servant.” Who decided to subdue it so?) Now remember that feeling when you pronounce the rhetorical questions: Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord? Could [why not “Should”, like the older translation] anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the LORD?

Because the phrases are short, be careful not merely to rattle them off. Pause briefly between phrases. Read the last sentence as if it had this punctuation:

Think of the commandments: hate not your neighbor; remember the Most High’s covenant; and overlook faults.

Second Reading

Proclaiming It: Steep yourself in that notion that you belong to Christ, that you live for the Lord and die for the Lord, before you proclaim this passage to the assembly.

Intro to Readings
by Gregory Warnusz

First Reading

Jesus ben Sirach was a Jerusalem sage living about 200 years before Jesus of Nazareth. His book tries to show the superiority of Jewish wisdom to both Jews and the pagans living among them. He often showed that God’s preferences and assumptions differ from ours.

Second Reading

In prior verses of this letter, Saint Paul asks the more mature members of his audience to behave a certain way toward the less mature. Now he gives his reason: not just because that would be right or kind, but because all just belong to Christ.

Gospel

Jesus gives one statement and one parable about forgiveness. There are surprising elements in each.

Word-Sunday.com

by Larry Broding

Click image to watch

FIRST READING

The price of hatred

What is the personal cost of holding onto hatred?

PSALM

Bless the Lord my Soul

How have you been blessed by God? How have you blessed God for his goodness?

SECOND READING

Belonging to another

Have you ever been frustrated by your responsibilities to others? Have you ever felt your life was not your own?

GOSPEL

Continual forgiveness

Is there someone in your life who is difficult to forgive?

Doctrinal Homily Outlines

by Kevin Aldrich

Moved here.


Living the Word

by Fr. Frank Bird, sm

Moved here.

INTROFIRSTPSALMSECONDGOSPELCHURCH FATHERS
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First Reading

commentary

Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight. — Sirach 27:30

Today’s teaching about anger and forgiveness is good for the playground, an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, or a session on restorative justice. The first thing to notice is that Sirach focuses not on the wrongdoer and his or her criminality but on the one who is offended. Sirach tells the angry victim that she must make a choice. She was injured once. Now, if she holds to that anger, the injury will become a major factor defining her life. She will end up hugging anger and wrath and having no room in her arms for anything more valuable and life-giving.—Sr. Mary

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Responsorial Psalm

The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion. — Psalm 103:8

Today’s Responsorial Psalm encourages us to be merciful to others just as our Father in Heaven is merciful to us.  St. Thomas Aquinas eloquently expressed the message of our reading when he wrote: “So splendid is the grace of God and his love for us that he has done much more for us than we can ever comprehend” (Expositio in Credum, 61).—Michal Hunt

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Second Reading

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. — Romans 14:8

Paul writes to the Church at Rome about the bitter separations and divisions with which they are afflicted. The ‘conservatives’ are scrupulously committed to the dietary and purity laws of the Jewish tradition. The ‘liberals’ may even be flaunting their new ‘freedom’ from such restrictions…Paul says to them both, “Don’t you know that you belong to God? How can you be treating each other this way?” The Church today needs to hear this again.—Fr. Clement

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Gospel

Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive?"— Matthew 18:21

Forgiving from the heart means that one would forgive for spiritual motives, never for what one could gain from it. All the gain has already been accomplished. Have we not been given the kingdom of God when we were forgiven by God? What more do we want? That and more satisfaction yet? But that is impossible.—Fr. Clement

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commentary

Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight. — Sirach 27:30

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First Reading

Sirach 27:30; 28:7

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Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

Forgiving and being forgiven

FIRST READING—As you may know, the first reading of our three Sunday readings is chosen to connect or underline the message of the Gospel. Sometimes this is easy to see, sometimes it is not. The connection this Sunday is easy to notice. Both this reading and the Gospel illustrate the connection between forgiving and being forgiven: Sirach asks:

Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord?

The reason a person does not receive healing from the Lord is that the sinner holds onto grudges and is unrepentant.

Wrath and anger are hateful things
yet the sinner hugs them tight ….
If one who is flesh cherishes wrath,
who will forgive his sins?

As recipients of God’s love and mercy, we are also expected to show love and mercy to others.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

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Sr. Patricia Stevenson's Reflection

Pride and anger

FIRST READING—Sirach comments, “Wrong doing can be so engrained that a person acts in an unjust manner without consciously being aware of it.” The writer goes on to say that the action is a result of disordered attitudes. Underneath the callous vengeful behaviour lie pride and anger.

Now pride and anger are feelings that are a normal part of our human make-up; we feel pride in our family our talents; anger is experienced when we are insulted or our values questioned.

When our proud or angry feelings are translated into actions which damage our own or another’s personal well being then they are ‘out-of order’. Some people, Sirach says, hug anger tight. They nourish it until it becomes a destructive energy which causes harm.

We have to learn to use the energy of our anger in appropriate ways. We probably believe that we could not act as the unjust official did. Yet God pardons us as readily. Do we avert to this when we judge and condemn others?

Perhaps we do not recognise the absolute mercy of God because, over the year, the people who speak in God’s name have tended to talk more about God as punisher rather than God as merciful, yet we read, “I will have mercy, not sacrifice.” God says. Good works are not a substitute for a forgiving heart.

The healing of our own spirits comes from developing a new heart. The seeds of vengeance must not be allowed to take root. We need to watch for the small expressions of injustice towards others and practice mercy.

Anger can be righteous, for example when we are cheated, dispossessed, or made the butt of jokes. We feel the energy which seeks to right the wrongs. A disciple of Jesus has to find the way to redress the wrong, without creating new wrongs. This is very difficult, to find peaceful solutions which end hostilities, takes time and commitment.

©2005 Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Used with permission.

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Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

Forgive your neighbor so you can be forgiven

FIRST READING—About 180 years before the birth of Jesus, there lived in Jerusalem a teacher of Jewish wisdom whose classroom notes were later taken by his Greek-speaking grandson in Alexandria, Egypt, and framed into what we know as the Book of Ecclesiasticus or Ben Sirach, known to us only in the Greek version. (Therefore, it is not included in the official list or canon of the Scriptures recognized by Protestants.) In this book, we find a most extraordinary teaching, one that is so close to the teaching of Jesus: “Forgive your neighbor so that you can be forgiven.”

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

Philosophy for Dummies

FIRST READING—The Book of Sirach might be thought of as the Philosophy for Dummies from 200 B.C.E. Ben Sira, the author, was a purveyor of proverbs. (It was the Greeks who added the “ch” to his name.) Ben Sira’s goal was to show the Israelites who lived among sophisticated Greeks that their traditions were every bit as valuable as anything the pagan philosophers offered.

Not all of Sirach’s teaching will hold up to 21st century standards, especially when it comes to questions of the role of woman in family and society, but that doesn’t undermine the perennial wisdom that can be mined from his writings.

Today’s teaching about anger and forgiveness is good for the playground, an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, or a session on restorative justice. The first thing to notice is that Sirach focuses not on the wrongdoer and his or her criminality but on the one who is offended. Sirach tells the angry victim that she must make a choice. She was injured once. Now, if she holds to that anger, the injury will become a major factor defining her life. She will end up hugging anger and wrath and having no room in her arms for anything more valuable and life-giving.

Ben Sira warns the person bent on vengeance that each of us participates in creating the world conditions in which we will live. One cannot both nourish anger and look for healing and forgiveness from God. Ben Sira is saying, “Face it, you can only receive what you are willing to give. So, be careful!”

Toward the end of the reading, Ben Sira offers a somber and solid technique for discerning what is important. “Remember your last days … remember death and decay.” A day is coming when all you can do is look back and ask yourself, “Did I make it worthwhile?” Thinking of that day, Ben Sira says “set enmity aside” because you are building the reality you will face in your own final days. As today’s Gospel parable will point out, the mercy sought by a pitiless person is only a scam.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. 2017 Reflections2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

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Forgive others as God forgives you

Mercy and forgiveness should be at the heart of the lives of those who love God.  However, as the First Reading reminds us, sometimes we stubbornly hold on to our anger and withhold our forgiveness when we feel wronged.  The inspired writer of Sirach summarizes his message, writing: 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 (Sirach 27:30-28:1).

Acting out in anger that inflicts harm is an abomination to God.  As for those motived to do wrong by releasing hateful feelings, God will remember their transgressions.  The appeal in the First Reading is to seek peace and reconciliation instead of disharmony and discord.  Anger and conflict are the products of a vengeful and unforgiving heart.  At the end of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus warned: “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions” (Mt 6:14-15).

Exploring the Text

Introduction to the book

This book is one of the few Bible Books that gives the name of the inspired writer.  According to Sirach 50:27, the writer is Jesus, son of Eleazar, son of Sira.  The earliest title of the book was apparently “Wisdom of the Son of Sira [Sirach].”  However, the title “Liber Ecclesiasticus,” “Church Book,” appears in many Greek and Latin manuscripts, probably due to the extensive use the Church made of this book in presenting moral teaching to catechumens.

Jesus ben Eleazar ben Sira lived in Jerusalem and wrote the book between 200 and 175 BC.  The text was translated into Greek, the international language of the time, sometime after 132 BC by the author’s grandson.  He also wrote a forward to the book, which contains information about his grandfather, the book itself (which he testifies was initially written in Hebrew), and the circumstances under which he did the translation.  The Book of Sirach was known only from the Greek and Latin manuscripts until the end of the 19th century.  Then, between 1896 and 1900, again in 1931, and several times since 1956, Hebrew manuscripts were discovered containing about two-thirds of the book, all of which agreed with the Greek texts.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Jewish vs. Catholic vs. Protestant bibles

The Catholic Church has always recognized the Book of Sirach as divinely inspired and canonical except for the forward to the book by the author’s grandson.  However, Catholic Bible include the grandson’s introduction because of its importance to the history of the book.  The Jews dropped the book from their Bible in the Middle Ages, insisting that only books written in Hebrew could be included in their canon (no Hebrew copy had been discovered at that time).  The Protestants dropped Sirach from their Bibles after the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century AD along with six other books, and parts of two others also dropped from the Jewish canon.  St. Jerome (342-420 AD) and the rabbis of his time quoted from Sirach and knew the book in its original language.  See the comparison between the Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant Bibles.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Three rhetorical questions

The inspired writer of Sirach summarizes the message of our passage in Sirach 27:30-28:1, 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.  Unbridled anger is an abomination to God, and as for the sinners who possess and act out in hate, God will remember their transgressions.

In verses 3-5, Ben Sira asks three rhetorical questions:

  1. How can anyone who harbors anger against another person expect mercy from God? (verse 3).
  2. How can anyone who refuses to show mercy to someone else expect God to forgive his sins? (verse 4).
  3. If a human being is full of anger, who can make expiation for his sins? (verse 5)

The answer to the first two questions is “No.”  The answer to the third rhetorical question appears in verse 2:  Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.  A sinner cannot receive expiation for the sin of anger against a covenant brother/sister until the sinner seeks reconciliation with his or her covenant brother/sister (Ex 23:4-5; Lev 19:17-18).  It is for this reason that we seek out our covenant brothers and sisters and extend to them our love in the greeting of peace at Mass before we go to the altar to receive Christ’s love in the Eucharist.  It is good to remember St. Paul’s warning in his first letter to the Corinthians concerning receiving the Eucharist: Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord.  A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup (1 Cor 11:27-28).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Think of the commandments

6 Remember your last days, set enmity aside; remember death and decay, and cease from sin!  7 Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor, remember the Most High’s covenant, and overlook faults.

Verses 6-7 are a warning that one must be willing to offer forgiveness and to let go of the sin of an angry and vindictive spirit before it is too late and death removes the possibility of reconciliation.  In verse 7, the words “Think of the commandments” is a reminder of the commandment from the Holiness Code in Leviticus 19:17-18 ~ You shall not bear hatred for your brother in your heart.  Though you may have to reprove your fellow man, do not incur sins because of him.  Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen.  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  I am the LORD.  Jesus alluded to the command from Leviticus 19:18 in Mathew 5:43 and quoted from it in Matthew 22:39 and Mark 12:3 (using the Greek Septuagint translation) as the second of the two most important commandments of God:

  • Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust” (Mt 5:43-45).
  • He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment.  The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments” (Mt 22:37-40).
Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The point of this teaching

The point of this teaching then and now is for us to demonstrate our gratitude to God in our actions. God has shown us His mercy and compassion by forgiving our sins, and we demonstrate our love when we manifest the same mercy, compassion, and forgiveness to others. A spirit of forgiveness is a high-point of the Christian life. Those hearts attuned to God’s compassion are the hearts that can bear witness to the truth that love is stronger than sin.

St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople (347-407), wrote concerning today’s passage:  “Although you may not deliberately do harm to your enemies, if you fail to show goodwill to them and leave the wound open on their souls, you are disobeying the commandment laid down by Christ.  How can you ask God to treat you with good grace, if you yourself do not show mercy to those who have sinned against you?” (De compunction, 1.5).  And the Catholic Catechism teaches: “Forgiveness is the fundamental condition of the reconciliation of the children of God with their heavenly Father and of men with one another” (CCC 2844).  The appeal in our passage is to seek peace and reconciliation instead of disharmony and discord.  They are the antithesis of love and the product of a vengeful and unforgiving heart.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE): St. Thomas lists the “daughters” of anger as quarreling, swelling of the mind, contumely (contempt or derision), clamor, indignation and blasphemy. For indeed, sometimes anger is directed at one who we deem unworthy, and this is called “indignation.” Sometimes wrathful anger manifests a pride where our anger is rooted in obstinate opinions and superiority. And anger surely gives birth to quarreling, derisiveness, and clamor. Anger directed at God often produces blasphemy.
SOURCE: Msgr. Pope in "The Seven Deadly Sins: Anger"
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The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion. — Psalm 103:8

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Responsorial Psalm

Psalm 103

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Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion

RESPONSORIAL 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.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

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God is merciful

Today’s Responsorial Psalm encourages us to be merciful to others just as our Father in Heaven is merciful to us.  St. Thomas Aquinas eloquently expressed the message of our reading when he wrote: “So splendid is the grace of God and his love for us that he has done much more for us than we can ever comprehend” (Expositio in Credum, 61).

Exploring the Text

Overview of the psalm

This psalm, attributed to David, praises God for all the blessings He bestows upon the psalmist and the covenant people (verses 2-4, 9-12).  The survey of all that God has done for His people (summarized in verses 9-10) concludes by acknowledging the immensity of God’s love for His people in verses 11-12.  St. Thomas Aquinas eloquently expresses the message of this passage: “So splendid is the grace of God and his love for us, that he has done much more for us than we can ever comprehend” (Expositio in Credum, 61).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE): James Earle Fraser's statue The Contemplation of Justice sits on the west side of the United States Supreme Court building's main entrance stairs. The statue depicts a seated woman resting her left arm on a book of laws and holding a figure of blindfolded Justice in her right hand which symbolizes impartiality in the fairness and equality of law. "If we as Catholics truly want justice, we need to first examine the conditions of our hearts. We should be asking ourselves, why do we seek and want justice? Is it to preserve peace and safety? Or is it because we are hurting because we have been wronged and we want revenge?...We need to remember that we’re called to love our neighbor as ourselves and be merciful, just as Jesus showed mercy towards all of us by taking on our sins and dying for each and every one of us."
Source: "I desire mercy, not sacrifice" by Paul Oakes
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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. — Romans 14:8

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Second Reading

Romans 14:7-9

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Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

Judgement is God’s business, not ours

Paul is in the middle of commenting on some small disagreements between church members in his Roman community. Some are Jewish Christians and some are Gentile Christians. They have different ideas about what one is allowed to eat and how one should fast.

Paul urges this community to refrain from judging each other, for all are seeking to serve the Lord. If some people are abstaining for certain foods out of love for the Lord, then we should not judge. Judgement is God’s business, not ours. Our job is to love people. God’s job is to judge them.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

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Sr. Patricia Stevenson's Reflection

Justice, peace and joy

SECOND READING—Paul says that the kingdom of God is about justice, peace and joy. Faithful disciples will keep trying to bring the mercy of God to damaged spirits.

©2005 Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Used with permission.

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Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

Whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord

SECOND READING—Paul writes to the Church at Rome about the bitter separations and divisions with which they are afflicted. The ‘conservatives’ are scrupulously committed to the dietary and purity laws of the Jewish tradition. The ‘liberals’ may even be flaunting their new ‘freedom’ from such restrictions. The first condemn the second, and the second seem to be saying, “See if we care!” Paul says to them both, “Don’t you know that you belong to God? How can you be treating each other this way?” The Church today needs to hear this again. Where is our unity with one another? Have we gone so far as to refuse fellowship with those who disagree with us?

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

None of us lives for oneself

SECOND READING—Paul’s message in this selection of Romans follows up directly on the end of the reading from Sirach. Sirach says, remember you are going to die so live with that in mind. Paul says we neither live nor die for ourselves alone, but for the Lord.

On one level, we can hear this teaching as the inspiration of John Dunne’s poem “No Man is an Island,” as it reminds us that we are all part of one another in Christ. Dunne’s meditation expresses a deep appreciation of the fact that all our gifts are for the common good, and all suffering is somehow shared. It leads to the realization that both loneliness and jealousy spring from isolation and lack of gratitude. Dunne expresses his awareness of humanity’s essential unity most memorably in the line: “Send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”

What Dunne says coincides with what modern science has come to understand about the connectedness of all reality. The bells toll for species and glaciers as well as for the elderly woman down the block and the drowned refugee child. Then too, every sunrise and growing blade of grass participates in what E. E. Cummings called,“the birth day of life and of love and wings” (“I thank you God for this most amazing”).

Paul’s message goes beyond those poetic visions of the unity of all creation. Pope Francis expressed this for our times in his encyclical, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.” Reflecting on human life he said:

The sheer novelty involved in the emergence of a personal being within a material universe presupposes a direct action of God and a particular call to life and to relationship on the part of a ‘Thou’ who addresses himself to another ‘thou.’ (#81)

That’s Francis’ commentary on Paul’s statement “None of us lives for oneself.” Francis goes on to say:

The ultimate purpose of other creatures is not to be found in us. Rather, all … are moving forward with us and through us towards a common point of arrival which is God … where the risen Christ embraces and illumines all things. Human beings, endowed with intelligence and love, and drawn by the fullness of Christ, are called to lead all creatures back to their Creator. (#83)

How better to say, “If we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord”?

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

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Living for Christ

In our Second Reading, St. Paul reminds us that we do not belong to a world controlled by sin; Christians belong to Christ. We are no longer our own because we have been purchased by the Precious Blood Jesus shed for us on the altar of the Cross.

Extending our forgiveness to others is the best expression of our gratitude to Jesus for the mercy and forgiveness He offers us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Exploring the Text

We belong to Christ

7 None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself.  8 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.  9 For this is why Christ died and came to life that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

From the time of our Christian Baptism, we no longer belong to the world, and we no longer belong to ourselves.  We belong to Christ!  We are no longer our own masters because Jesus has redeemed us by the shedding of His Precious Blood.  In 1 Corinthians 6:20, St. Paul wrote, You are not your own property then, you have been bought at a price.  So use your body for the glory of God.  We have become Christ’s servants, committed to Him body and soul.  Therefore, we live and die for the glory of God because He is the Lord of our life and our death.  We also live in the Body of Christ, which is the Church; it is a communion of love communicated to us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Living in harmony

Living in harmony in this communion of love, if one member of the Body suffers, then all suffer together.  And, if one member is honored, then all the communion of believers, in heaven and on earth, rejoice.  As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:26-27, If one part is hurt, all the parts share its pain.  And if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.  Now Christ’s body is yourselves, each of you with a part to play in the whole.  Concerning today’s Second Reading, Pope St. Gregory the Great wrote, “The saints, therefore, do not live and do not die for themselves.  They do not live for themselves because, in all that they do, they strive for spiritual gain: by praying, preaching, and persevering in good works, they seek the increase of the citizens of the heavenly fatherland.  Nor do they die for themselves because men see them glorifying God by their death, hastening to reach him through death” (Pope St. Gregory V: In Ezechielem homiliae, II, 10). See CCC# 946-948; 953

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
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Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive?"— Matthew 18:21

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Gospel Reading

Matthew 18:21-35

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Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

Jesus puts no limit on forgiveness

GOSPEL—The Gospel opens with Peter seeking to place a limit on how often he must forgive someone who offends him over and over. Surely, forgiving someone seven times should be enough. But Jesus disagrees, saying he should forgive not seven times but seventy times seven. In other words, Jesus puts no limit on forgiveness.

To illustrate his point further, Jesus tells a parable, often called the kingdom parable because he tells how things are to be in the new kingdom that he is inaugurating. In the parable, the king stands for God,and the servant stands for all of us. The king shows great mercy to the servant who owes a huge debt. The expectation is that the forgiven servant will also show mercy to the one who owes him much less. When this does not happen, the king (representing God) is not happy. The parable grounds forgiveness in the nature of God. We are to heed the intent of the parable at its conclusion: it solemnly warns us that we must fervently pray for strength to resist the temptation to get even with those who have hurt us, and pray for the grace to reflect the majestic generosity of the Kingdom of God

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

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Sr. Patricia Stevenson's Reflection

Mercy

GOSPEL—The theme of today’s readings is Mercy. We have two short stories that are strongly contrasted. In the first, a king in the midst of an audit finds that a minor official owes thousands. According to custom he orders the man and his family to be sold to cover the cost of the debt. The man asks for mercy and he is granted, no simply what he asked for, which was, more time to pay, but extraordinarily, the remission of the whole debt.

Such a story would have brought a gasp of astonishment from the hearers, “Would we could serve such a King.”

The second story is dark and shocking. the lucky official on leaving the presence of the king, runs into a fellow official who owes him a couple of hundred. He grabs the fellow by the throat and threatens him. The frightened man begs for more time but his plea is not heard. The hapless official is sent to prison.

This story leaves us shocked by the ruthless attitude of the official and his inability to relate his experience of mercy to his own behaviour. “How could he do that?” we ask ourselves.

©2005 Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Used with permision.

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Fr. Clement D. Thibodeau's Reflection

Forgive in order to be forgiven by God

GOSPEL—Peter knew the Law of God as given by Moses: It required that he forgive his brother. The tradition said that he should forgive as much as three times when someone had done him wrong. He knew very well that the new rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth, was teaching a radically new ethic based on higher standards. So, he had it all worked out: Jesus would surely praise him if he multiplied the number of times by two and added one more for perfect measure. Seven was considered the perfect number. It represented all the days of creation and even included God’s day of rest. So, seven was perfect! He would forgive up to seven times. That certainly would impress Jesus, or so he thought. Jesus says to him, “

But, Peter,don’t you know anything at all? Why are you even counting? Seventy times seven times! That means always, without reservation, unconditionally, not even waiting for repentance on the part of the offender!”Those who follow Jesus will not even try to count when it comes to forgiveness. But, then, Jesus gives Peter the reason why he must forgive without counting the number of times: Because of the overwhelmingly generous God who has forgiven him far more than he will ever be asked to forgive! Here comes the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. A man who owed his master a huge amount was forgiven when he asked. This huge amount was literally 10,000 talents. A talent was the largest monetary unit in use in the ancient world. It would have been something like our $1,000 bill! Ten thousand was the largest numeral that could be used in any computation. What this is saying is that the man owed more than he could ever repay even if he worked for a whole lifetime. It is a debt far beyond the capacity of any human to pay. It symbolically refers to the moral debt that Peter has already had forgiven him by God because of the future death and resurrection of Christ. No human could ever even try to pay that. “See what God has forgiven you, Peter! Don’t you think you should forgive without counting, without measuring, without ceasing?”

Forgiving from the heart means that one would forgive for spiritual motives, never for what one could gain from it. All the gain has already been accomplished. Have we not been given the kingdom of God when we were forgiven by God? What more do we want? That and more satisfaction yet? But that is impossible.

We do no better than Peter when it comes to appreciating the overwhelmingly generous act of God in forgiving us our sins. We are proud of ourselves when we are able to forgive even one time. We act as if God owes us a lot for being so kind and so generous. We can’t even begin to imagine that we are still debtors to God.

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

Peter’s numbers game

GOSPEL—Today’s Gospel takes us into the humorous heart of Jesus the storyteller and teacher. The fact that the incident opens with a question from Peter gives us advance notice that we’re about to hear the most sincere and blundering of disciples open the door for Jesus to launch into another of his stories that stick.

Picking up from last week, Jesus is teaching his disciples about the community’s responsibility for seeking and reconciling the lost. Perhaps Peter was hoping to help his teacher with a set-up question: “How often must I forgive?” Then, to give Jesus ample room to congratulate him for his perception and generosity, he asks, “Seven times?” Seven wasn’t just a number he pulled out of his headdress. Seven was Peter’s way of demonstrating uncommon generosity. Offering to forgive seven times was like saying, “I’ll put up with anything if that’s what you suggest.” Jesus doubles down on him and replies, “Not just seven, my friend, but seventy-seven … forever and ever, Amen!” (That’s a free interpretation of Jesus’ exaggerated number of seventy-seven.)

Peter’s numbers game offered Jesus the take-off point for a story about how things get worked out in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus invites his hearers to imagine such a fantastic world of affluence that Bill Gates would feel like a country store clerk amid this crowd of characters. When it came to describing the sums of money involved, hyperbole was the name of the game. Our translation has turned the original 10,000 talents into “a huge amount.” Just to get a sense of what “huge” means, we start with the fact that a talent was the weight a soldier could carry on his back, something between 75 and 100 pounds. Jesus doesn’t specify if these talents were silver or gold, but people got the idea. Now how many talents were owed? The word translated as “huge” is 10,000, which wasn’t meant to be literal, it was simply the highest number calculable in those days. We would probably say “a gazillion.” Now, the audience was really getting the picture. If the debtor, “Mr. D,” had shown up ready to pay, he would have arrived accompanied by a parade of a gazillion servants, each weighed down by someone else’s wealth. (Whose wealth it really was is a question for the ethicists.)

It goes without saying that Mr. D had no way to pay it off. Even so, he made a show of asking for just a little more time. The master, endowed with a heart even bigger than his fortune, wrote off the loan. So far, the parable has set up a world in which the forgiveness of such an immense fortune makes it look as if anything is possible. It’s jubilee time! But, just as the audience pictured the relieved debtor dancing down the road to home, Jesus began narrating the second act of the drama.

Now those who had seen or heard what had happened to Mr. D are watching to see what he does next. How is he going to celebrate his good fortune? He hunted down one of his own debtors. This fellow owed him 100 denarii, the equivalent of 100 days wages — a pretty significant amount to somebody who didn’t have hordes of money hidden at home, but a full 600,000 times less than Mr. D had owed the master.

Happy face erased, Mr. D grabs the guy by the neck. As if he had been listening in while Mr. D performed before the master, the guy steals Mr. D’s lines, but his pitiful plea for compassion has no effect on its original author. Mr. D wants nothing more than his money. Proving that he has no idea of what mercy is, he sends the unfortunate fellow to prison.

In the end, Mr. D gets what’s coming to him, or perhaps better said, Mr. D ends up in the world he has created. He was offered an alternative, but he wouldn’t pay 100 denarii for a world of mercy.

Peter asked Jesus how many times community members were expected to forgive one another. Jesus told them a tall tale that asked them what kind of world they wanted to create and what it was worth to them. The person who counts the number of times they will pardon another is not forgiving but keeping score.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

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The necessity of Christian forgiveness and the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

In the Gospels, Jesus repeatedly warned us when we withhold our forgiveness, our anger and desire for vengeance can become a hindrance to experiencing God’s forgiveness for our sins (i.e., Mt 6:14-15; Mk 11:25).  In today’s Gospel Reading, Jesus gives an example to His disciples to illustrate the necessity of forgiveness in the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.

Jesus’ parable teaches Christians, who are His servants, the obligation to forgive their brothers and sisters who have wronged them in the Church’s covenant family.  When Christians face the Judgment Throne of God and are held accountable for any sins committed against love, God will take our selfish desire to withhold forgiveness into account.  Jesus calls us to practice His example of forgiveness when, from the altar of the Cross, He cried out, “Father, forgive them” (Mt 23:34).

Exploring the Text

How often must I forgive?

Verses 21-22 concern forgiving a brother or sister within the covenant family: 21 Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him?  As many as seven times?”  22 Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”  St. Peter approached Jesus and wanted a more explicit definition of how many times he was obligated to forgive someone who had wronged him.  The number Jesus gives Peter is significant, but it is not to be taken literally.  Jesus gives a number that has a symbolic value.  The number in the Greek text can be understood as seven times ten plus seven times = 77 times, or it can be seen as seven times ten times seven = 490 times.  In both cases, seven is the symbolic number of perfection, fulfillment, and completion.  It is also the number of the Holy Spirit and the number representing a covenant.  Ten is the number of divine government.  Taken together, the numbers seven and ten symbolize the spiritual perfection and fulfillment of divine government within the covenant with God.  The answer, in any event, is that Peter’s forgiveness should be limitless.  See the document “The Significance of Numbers in Scripture“.

What generates St. Peter’s question to Jesus in verse 21 may be an exchange not recorded in the Gospel of Matthew.  In Luke 17:3-4, Jesus is teaching the disciples about forgiveness and says: “Be on your guard!  If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.  And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him” (underlining added for emphasis).  If you approach Matthew 18:21-22 in light of the Luke passage, the interpretation is quite different.  In the exchange in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is speaking about the forgiveness between brothers/sisters within the community of believers, and the command is to forgive seven times, using the number which symbolically expresses fullness and completion.  Perhaps St. Peter, as the spokesman of the disciples, is asking the question because he is looking for clarification since the rabbis considered three times forgiveness to be sufficient (Mishnah: Yoma, 86b-87a).  In any event, Jesus tells Peter he must forgive not seven times, as Jesus told the other disciples, but seventy-seven times or seventy times seven times, exercising the spiritual perfection and fulfillment of the Church’s divine government.

When Peter asks for clarification on the perfection of brotherly forgiveness, one might ask why is Jesus’ answer to Peter such a larger symbolic number than what Jesus gave to the other disciples in Luke 17:3-4?  The simple answer is that forgiveness to the repentant covenant member should have no limit.  However, considering Peter’s status as the Vicar of Christ, Jesus’ demand may be greater because the Church must be unlimited in offering forgiveness for sins even to the greatest sinner who seeks mercy, a requirement beyond the mere human capacity for forgiveness.

To illustrate His point about forgiveness within the covenant community of His Kingdom of the Church, Jesus continues His teaching with a parable that is an extension of His exchange with St. Peter.  In verse 24, the first servant owed the king an incredibly large amount of money.  In ancient Greek, a “myriad of talents” is equal to ten thousand talents, with a single talent being worth six thousand denarii.  A single denarius was worth a day’s wage for the typical laborer.  Therefore, the money owed the king was an impossible sum for the servant to repay.  In contrast, the money the second servant owed was one hundred denarii, which is equivalent to about 100 days of labor.  It was not an impossible sum to repay (Mitch and Sri, The Gospel of Matthew, page 234).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Introduction to Jesus' parable

In the parable, both servants begged for mercy. The first servant asks the king for mercy on account of his vast debt (of sin). The second servant asks the first servant to whom the king had granted mercy and forgiveness for the same compassion for his debt to his fellow servant. When the first servant refused, the king/master’s anger was justified since he offered the first servant sinner his bountiful forgiveness. The king’s mercy was more than the servant deserved, and yet the first servant was not willing to extend even a small portion of the forgiveness he received from his master to his brother servant. The king/master then harshly judges the servant who refused to forgive; his lack of forgiveness has cut him off from the king’s forgiveness.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Symbolism in the parable''

Keep in mind that this is an allegory about the Church that is Christ’s Kingdom, and each of the elements is symbolic:

  1. The king/master is God.
  2. The servant who was deeply in debt to the king is every Christian who comes to God in repentance, asking for His mercy and forgiveness.
  3. The second servant who owed the first servant is any Christian who seeks forgiveness for having wronged a fellow Christian.
  4. The fellow servants of the household are the community of believers.
  5. The place where one must pay one’s debt must is Sheol/Purgatory.
Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Same teaching in the Sermon on the Mount

Jesus gave this same teaching about being shown God’s mercy and the requirement to extend the same forgiveness to others three times in the Sermon on the Mount:

  1. In the Beatitudes, Jesus said: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Mt 5:7).
  2. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus said: “and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Mt 6:12).
  3. In the verses that serve as a summation of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus said: “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions” (Mt 6:14-15).
Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The prison/torturers imagery

The prison/torturers that the unforgiving servant was handed over to by the king/master in verse 34 cannot be Hell/Gehenna, as some have suggested.  Prison is temporary, but Hell/Gehenna is forever (CCC 1030-32 and 1033-37).  In the ancient world, prison was always temporary confinement for someone who broke the law.  Convicted criminals suffered execution, and debtors were confined until the debt was “paid in full.”  Jesus is straightforward when He refers to eternal punishment.  He either refers directly to Gehenna (Mt 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33) or indirectly to Gehenna as the place of “wailing and grinding of teeth” (Mt 13:42, 50), or the place of unquenchable fire (Mt 7:19; 13:40, 42; 18:8, 9; 25:41).  This passage uses none of those descriptions.  Verse 34 states the debt can be paid, and when the whole debt is paid, the servant can be released.  There is no release from the Hell of the damned, but there is a release from Hades (abode of the dead in Greek and Sheol in Hebrew), what we now call Purgatory, once one has become purified of one’s sins.

Jesus uses the metaphor of prison and debt payment in referring to Sheol/Hades in His teaching about forgiveness in Mathew 5:25-26 ~“Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him.  Otherwise, your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.  Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny” (emphasis added; also see Lk 12:58-9).

St. Peter also refers to Sheol/Hades as a prison in 1 Peter 3:19, In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, referring to Jesus’ descent into Sheol/Hades from His tomb (also see 1 Cor 3:10-15; CCC 633 and 1030-35).  The prison imagery for Sheol/Hades in Matthew 5:25-26 and the judicial imagery in both Mt 5:25-26 and Mt 18:34-35 connect these passages to the Church’s judicial power to bind and loose sins in holding the keys to Sheol/Hades and heaven (see Mt 16:18-19; 18:18; Jn 20:22-23).  Withholding our forgiveness from those who seek it will not cost us our eternal salvation, but it will require the fiery purifying love of God in our penance owed for our sin-debt in Purgatory (see 1 Cor 3:12-15; CCC 1030-32).

However, our lack of love can reach a point that puts our eternal salvation in jeopardy, as Jesus taught in Matthew 25:3-46.  It is best to remember St. John’s advice in 1 John 4:20-21 ~ If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.  This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE): Brandt Jean, Botham Jean's younger brother, hugs former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger in court after saying he forgives her for killing his brother. Guyger received a 10-year prison sentence for murder. via REUTERS Related: Brandt Jean's Act Of Grace Toward His Brother's Killer Sparks A Debate Over Forgiving

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The Catena Aurea

Saint Thomas Aquinas

The Catena Aurea (or, Golden Chain) is a compilation of Patristic commentary on the Gospels and contains passages from the Church Fathers. In this masterpiece, Aquinas seamlessly weaves together extracts from various Fathers to provide a complete commentary on all four Gospels.

List of Church Fathers

Here are some of the Church Fathers that Aquinas uses:

Third Century

  • Origen  – Alexandrian biblical critic, exegete, theologian, and spiritual writer; analyzed the Scriptures on three levels: the literal, the moral, and the allegorical
  • Cyprian  – pagan rhetorician converted to Christianity; acquired acquired a profound knowledge of the Scriptures and the writings of Tertullian; elected bishop of Carthage; martyred in 258

Fourth Century

  • Eusebius  – Bishop of Caesarea; author of Ecclesiastical History, the principal source for the history of Christianity from the Apostolic Age till his own day; also wrote a valuable work on Biblical topography called the Onomasticon
  • Athanasius  – Bishop of Alexandria; attended the Council of Nicea; opposed Arianism, in defence of the faith proclaimed at Nicaea—that is, the true deity of God the Son
  • Hilary  – Bishop of Poitiers; the earliest known writer of hymns in the Western Church; defended the cause of orthodoxy against Arianism; became the leading Latin theologian of his age
  • Gregory of Nazianzus  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; a great influence in restoring the Nicene faith and leading to its final establishment at the Council of Constantinople in 381
  • Gregory of Nyssa  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Nyssa; took part in the Council of Constantinople
  • Ambrose  – Bishop of Milan; partly responsible for the conversion of Augustine; author of Latin hymns; it was through his influence that hymns became an integral part of the liturgy of the Western Church
  • Jerome  – biblical scholar; devoted to a life of asceticism and study; his greatest achievement was his translation of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate); also wrote many biblical commentaries
  • Nemesius  – Christian philosopher; Bishop of Emesa in Syria
  • Augustine  – Bishop of Hippo (in northern Africa); a “Doctor of the Church”; most famous work is his Confessions; his influence on the course of subsequent theology has been immense
  • Chrysostom  – Bishop of Constantinople; a “Doctor of the Church”; a gifted orator; his sermons on Gen, Ps, Isa, Matt, John, Acts, and the Pauline Epistles (including Hebrews) established him as the greatest of Christian expositors
  • Prosper of Aquitaine  – theologian; supporter of Augustinian doctrines; closely associated with Pope Leo I (“the Great”)
  • Damasus  – pope; active in suppressing heresy
  • Apollinaris of Laodicea  – Bishop of Laodicea; close friend of Athanasias; vigorous advocate of orthodoxy against the Arians
  • Amphilochius of Iconium  – Bishop of Iconium; close friend of the Cappadocian Fathers; defended the full Divinity of the Holy Spirit

Fifth Century

  • Asterius of Amasea  – Arian theologian; some extant homilies on the Psalms attributed to him
  • Evagrius Ponticus  – spiritual writer; noted preacher at Constantinople; spent the last third of his life living a monastic life in the desert
  • Isidore of Pelusium  – an ascetic and exegete; his extant correspondence contains much of doctrinal, exegetical, and moral interest
  • Cyril of Alexandria  – Patriarch of Alexandria; contested Nestorius; put into systematic form the classical Greek doctrines of the Trinity and of the Person of Christ
  • Maximus of Turin  – Bishop of Turin; over 100 of his sermons survive
  • Cassion (prob. Cassian)  – one of the great leaders of Eastern Christian monasticism; founded two monasteries near Marseilles; best known books the Institutes and the Conferences
  • Chrysologus  – Bishop of Ravenna; a “Doctor of the Church”
  • Basil “the Great”  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Caesarea; responsible for the Arian controversy’s being put to rest at the Council of Constantinople
  • Theodotus of Ancyra  – Bishop of Ancyra; wrote against the teaching of Nestorius
  • Leo the Great  – Pope who significantly consolidated the influence of the Roman see; a “Doctor of the Church”; his legates defended Christological orthodoxy at the Council of Chalcedon
  • Gennadius  – Patriarch of Constantinople; the author of many commentaries, notably on Genesis, Daniel, and the Pauline Epistles
  • Victor of Antioch  – presbyter of Antioch; commentator and collector of earlier exegetical writings
  • Council of Ephesus  – declared the teachings of Nestorious heretical, affirming instead the unity between Christ’s human and divine natures
  • Nilus  – Bishop of Ancyra; disciple of St John Chrysostom; founder of a monastery; conducted a large correspondence influencing his contemporaries; his writings deal mainly with ascetic and moral subjects

Sixth Century

  • Dionysius Areopagita  (aka Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite) – mystical theologian; combined Neoplatonism with Christianity; the aim of all his works is the union of the whole created order with God
  • Gregory the Great  – Pope; a “Doctor of the Church”; very prolific writer of works on practical theology, pastoral life, expositions of Job, sermons on the Gospels, etc.
  • Isidore  – Bishop of Seville; a “Doctor of the Church”; concerned with monastic discipline, clerical education, liturgical uniformity, conversion of the Jews; helped secure Western acceptance of Filioque clause
  • Eutychius (Patriarch of Constan­tinople)  – consecrated the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople; defended the Chalcedonian faith against an unorthodox sect; became controversial later in life
  • Isaac (Bp. of Nineveh)  (aka Isaac the Syrian) – monastic writer on ascetic subjects
  • Severus (Bp. of Antioch)  – Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch; the leading theologian of the moderate Monophysites
  • John Climacus  – ascetic and writer on the spiritual life; later Abbot of Mt. Sinai; best known for his Ladder of Divine Ascent which treats of the monastic virtues and vices
  • Fulgentius  – Bishop of Ruspe in N. Africa; scholarly disposition; follower of St. Augustine; wrote many treatises against Arianism and Pelagianism

Seventh Century

  • Maximus ( of Constantinople, 645.)  – Greek theologian; prolific writer on doctrinal, ascetical, exegetical, and liturgical subjects

Eighth Century

  • Bede (131CESK) – “the Venerable Bede”; a “Doctor of the Church”; pedagogue, biblical exegete, hagiographer, and historian, the most influential scholar from Anglo-Saxon England
  • John Damascene  – Greek theologian; a “Doctor of the Church”; defender of images in the Iconoclastic Controversy; expounded the doctrine of the perichoresis (circumincession) of the Persons of the Trinity
  • Alcuin  – Abbot of St. Martin’s (Tours); a major contributor to the Carolingian Renaissance; supervised the production of several complete editions of the Bible; responsible for full acceptance of the Vulgate in the West

Ninth Century

  • Haymo (of Halberstadt)  – German Benedictine monk who became bishop of Halberstadt; prolific writer
  • Photius (of Constantinople)  – Patriarch of Constantinople; a scholar of wide interests and encyclopedic knowledge; his most important work, Bibliotheca, is a description of several hundred books (many now lost), with analyses and extracts; also wrote a Lexicon
  • Rabanus Maurus  – Abbot of Fulda in Hess Nassau; later Archbishop of Mainz; wrote commentaries on nearly every Book of the Bible
  • Remigius (of Auxerre)  – monk, scholar, and teacher
  • Paschasius Radbertus  – Carolingian theologian; wrote commentaries on Lamentations and Matthew, as well as the first doctrinal monograph on the Eucharist, he maintained the real Presence of Christ

Eleventh Century

  • Theophylact  – Byzantine exegete; his principal work, a series of commentaries on several OT books and on the whole of the NT except Revelation, is marked by lucidity of thought and expression and closely follows the scriptural text
  • Anselm  – Archbishop of Canterbury; a “Doctor of the Church”; highly regarded teacher and spiritual director; famous ontological argument for the existence of God as “that than which nothing greater can be thought”
  • Petrus Alphonsus  – Jewish Spanish writer and astronomer, a convert to Christianity; one of the most important figures in anti-Judaic polemics
  • Laufranc (prob. Lanfranc)  – Archbishop of Canterbury; commented on the Psalms and Pauline Epistles; his biblical commentary passed into the Glossa Ordinaria
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Matthew 18:21-22

21. Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?

22. Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

JEROME. The Lord had said above, See that ye despise not one of these little ones, and had added, If thy brother sin against thee, &c. making also a promise, If two of you, & c. by which the Apostle Peter was led to ask, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? And to his question he adds an opinion, Until seven times?

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxi.) Peter thought that he had made a large allowance; but what answers Christ the Lover of men? it follows, Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times, but, Until seventy times seven.

AUGUSTINE. (Serm. 83. 3.) I am bold to say, that if he shall sin seventy-eight times, thou shouldest forgive him; yea, and if a hundred; and how oft soever he sin against thee, forgive him. For if Christ found a thousand sins, yet forgave them all, do not you withdraw your forgiveness. For the Apostle says, Forgiving one another, if any man hath a quarrel against any, even as God in Christ forgave you. (Col. 3:13.)

CHRYSOSTOM. When He says, Until seventy times seven, He does not limit a definite number within which forgiveness must be kept; but He signifies thereby something endless and ever enduring.

AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) Yet not without reason did the Lord say, Seventy times seven; for the Law is set forth in ten precepts; and the Law is signified by the number ten, sin by eleven, because it is passing the denary line. Seven is used to be put for a whole, because time goes round in seven days. Take eleven seven times, and you have seventy. He would therefore have all trespasses forgiven, for this is what He signifies by the number seventy-seven.

ORIGEN. Or, because the number six seems to denote toil and labour, and the number seven repose, He says that forgiveness should be given to all brethren who live in this world, and sin in the things of this world. But if any commit transgressions beyond these things, he shall then have no further forgiveness.

JEROME. Or understand it of four hundred and ninety times, that He bids us forgive our brother so oft.

RABANUS. It is one thing to give pardon to a brother when he seeks it, that he may live with us in social charity, as Joseph to his brethren; and another to a hostile foe, that we may wish him good, and if we can do him good, as David mourning for Saul.

18:23–35

23. Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.

24. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.

25. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.

26. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.

27. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.

28. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow-servants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.

29. And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.

30. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.

31. So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.

32. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:

33. Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?

34. And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.

35. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.

CHRYSOSTOM. That none should think that the Lord had enjoined something great and burdensome in saying that we must forgive till seventy times seven, He adds a parable.

JEROME. For it is customary with the Syrians, especially they of Palestine, to add a parable to what they speak; that what their hearers might not retain simply, and in itself, the instance and similitude may be the means of retaining.

ORIGEN. The Son of God, as He is wisdom, righteousness, and truth (vid. 1 Cor. 1:30.), so is He a kingdom; not indeed any of those which are beneath, but all those which are above, reigning over those in whose senses reigns justice and the other virtues; these are made of heaven because they bear the image of the heavenly. This kingdom of heaven then, i. e. the Son of God, when He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, was then like to a king, in uniting man to himself.

REMIGIUS. Or, by the kingdom of heaven is reasonably understood the holy Church, in which the Lord works what He speaks of in this parable. By the man is sometimes represented the Father, as in that, The kingdom of heaven is like to a king, who made a marriage for his son; and sometimes the Son; but here we may take it for both, the Father and the Son, who are one God. God is called a King, inasmuch as He created and governs all things.

ORIGEN. The servants, in these parables, are only they who are employed in dispensing the word, and to whom this business is committed.

REMIGIUS. Or, by the servants of this King are signified all mankind whom He has created for His own praise, and to whom He gave the law of nature; He takes account with them, when He would look into each man’s manners, life, and deeds, that He may render to each according to that He has done; as it follows, And when He had begun to reckon, one was brought unto Him which owed Him ten, thousand talents.

ORIGEN. The King takes account of our, whole life then, when we must all be presented before the judgment-seat of Christ. (2 Cor. 5:10.) We mean not this so as that any should think that the business itself must needs require a long time. For God, when He will scrutinize the minds of all, will by some undescribable power cause every thing that every man has done to pass speedily before the mind of each. He says, And when he began to take account, because the beginning of the judgment is that it begin from the house of God. (1 Pet. 4:17.) At His beginning to take account there is brought unto Him one who owes Him many talents; one, that is, who had wrought great evils; one on whom much had been enjoined, and had yet brought no gain; who perhaps had destroyed as many men as he owed talents; one who was therefore become a debtor of many talents, because he had followed the woman sitting upon a talent of lead, whose name is Iniquity. (Zech. 5:7.)

JEROME. I know that some interpret the man who owed the ten thousand talents to be the devil, and by his wife and children who were to be sold when he persevered in his wickedness, understand foolishness, and hurtful thoughts. For as wisdom is called the wife of the righteous man, so the wife of the unrighteous and the sinner is called foolishness. But how the Lord remits to the devil ten thousand talents, and how he would not remit ten denarii to us his fellow-servants, of this there is no ecclesiastical interpretation, nor is it to be admitted by thoughtful men.

AUGUSTINE. (Serm. 83, 6.) Therefore let us say, that because the Law is set forth in ten precepts, the ten thousand talents which he owed denote all sins which can be done under the Law.

REMIGIUS. Man who sinned of his own will and choice, has no power to rise again by his own endeavour, and has not wherewith to pay, because he finds nothing in himself by which he may loose himself from his sins; whence it follows, And when he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The fool’s wife is folly, and the pleasure or lust of the flesh.

AUGUSTINE. (Quæst. Ev. i. 25.) This signifies that the transgressor of the decalogue deserves punishment for his lusts and evil deeds; and that is his price; for the price for which they sell is the punishment of him that is damned.

CHRYSOSTOM. This command issued not of cruelty, but of unspeakable tenderness. For he seeks by these terrors to bring him to plead that he be not sold, which fell out, as he shews when he adds, The servant therefore fell down and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.

REMIGIUS. That he says, falling down, shews how the sinner humbled himself, and offered amends. Have patience with me, expresses the sinner’s prayer, begging respite, and space to correct his error. Abundant is the bounty of God, and His clemency to sinners converted, seeing He is ever ready to forgive sins by baptism or penitence, as it follows, But the lord of that servant had mercy upon him, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.

CHRYSOSTOM. See the exuberance of heavenly love! The servant asked only a brief respite, but he gives him more than he had asked, a full remittance and cancelling of the whole debt. He was minded to have forgiven him from the very first, but he would not have it to be of his own mere motion, but also of the other’s suit, that he might not depart without a gift. But he did not remit the debt till he had taken account, because he would have him know how great debts he set him free of, that by this he should at the least be made more merciful to his fellow servants. And indeed as far as what has gone he was worthy to be accepted; for he made confession, and promised that he would pay the debt, and fell down and begged, and confessed the greatness of his debt. But his after deeds were unworthy of the former, for it follows, But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow-servants which owed him a hundred denarii.

AUGUSTINE. (Serm. 83. 6.) That He says he owed him a hundred denarii is taken from the same number, ten, the number of the Law. For a hundred times a hundred are ten thousand, and ten times ten are a hundred; and those ten thousand talents and these hundred denarii are still keeping to the number of the Law; in both of them you find sins. Both are debtors, both are suitors for remission; so every man is himself a debtor to God, and has his brother his debtor.

CHRYSOSTOM. But there is as great difference between sins committed against men, and sins committed against God, as between ten thousand talents and a hundred denarii; yea rather there is still greater difference. This appears from the difference of the persons, and from the fewness of the offenders. For when we are seen of man we withhold and are loath to sin, but we cease not daily though God see us, but act and speak all things fearlessly. Not by this only are our sins against God shewn to be more heinous, but also by reason of the benefits which we have received from Him; He gave us being, and has done all things in our behalf, has breathed into us a rational soul, has sent His Son, has opened heaven to us, and made us His sons. If then we should every day die for Him, could we make Him any worthy return? By no means; it should rather redound again to our advantage. But, on the contrary, we offend against His laws.

REMIGIUS. So by him who owed ten thousand talents are represented those that commit the greater crimes; by the debtor of a hundred denarii those who commit the lesser.

JEROME. That this may be made plainer, let us speak it in instances. If any one of you shall have committed an adultery, a homicide, or a sacrilege, these greater sins of ton thousand talents shall be remitted when you beg for it, if you also shall remit lesser offences to those that trespass against you.

AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) But this unworthy, unjust servant would not render that which had been rendered to him, for it follows, And he laid hands on him, and held him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou, owest.

REMIGIUS. That is, he pressed him hardly, that he might exact vengeance from him.

ORIGEN. He therefore, as I suppose, took him by the throat, because he had come forth from the king; for he would not have so handled his fellow servant, if he had not gone forth from the king.

CHRYSOSTOM. By saying, as he went out, He shews that it was not after long time, but immediately, while the favour he had received still sounded in his ears, he abused to wickedness the liberty his lord had accorded him. What the other did is added, And his fellow-servant fell down, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all,

ORIGEN. Observe the exactness of Scripture; the servant who owed many talents fell down, and worshipped the king; he who owed the hundred denarii falling down, did not worship, but besought his fellow servant, saying, Have patience. But the ungrateful servant did not even respect the very words which had saved himself, for it follows, but he would not.

AUGUSTINE. (Quæst. Ev. i. 25.) That is, he nourished such thoughts towards him that he sought his punishment. But he went his way.

REMIGIUS. That is, his wrath was the rather inflamed, to exact vengeance of him; And he cast him into prison, until he should pay the debt; that is, he seized his brother, and exacted vengeance of him.

CHRYSOSTOM. Observe the Lord’s tenderness, and the servant’s cruelty; the one for ten thousand talents, the other for ten denarii; the one a suitor to his fellow, the other to his lord; the one obtained entire remission, the other sought only respite, but he got it not. They who owed nought grieved with him; his fellow-servants, seeing what was done, were very sorry.

AUGUSTINE. (Quæst. Ev. i. 25.) By the fellow-servants is understood the Church, which binds one and looses another.

REMIGIUS. Or perhaps they represent the Angels, or the preachers of the holy Church, or any of the faithful, who when they see a brother whose sins are forgiven refusing to forgive his fellow-servant, they are sorrowful over his perdition. And they came, and told their lord, what was done. They came not in body, but in spirit. To tell their Lord, is to shew the woe and sorrow of the heart in their carriage. It follows, Then his lord called him. He called him by the sentence of death, and bade him pass out of this world, and said unto him, Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou prayedst me.

CHRYSOSTOM. When he owed him ten thousand talents, he did not call him wicked, nor did he at all chide him, but had mercy on him; but now when he had been ungenerous to his fellow-servant, then he says to him, Thou wicked servant; and this is what is said, Oughtest thou not to have had mercy upon thy fellow-servant.

REMIGIUS. And it is to be known, that we read no answer made by that servant to his lord; by which it is shewn us, that in the day of judgment, and altogether after this life, all excusing of ourselves shall be out off,

CHRYSOSTOM. Because kindness had not mended him, it remains that he be corrected by punishment; whence it follows, And the lord of that servant was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay the whole debt. He said not merely, Delivered him, but was angry, this he had not said before; when his Lord commanded that he should be sold; for that was not in wrath, but in love, for his correction; now this is a sentence of penalty and punishment,

REMIGIUS. For God is said then to be wroth, when he takes vengeance on sinners. Torturers are intended for the dæmons, who are always ready to take up lost souls, and torture them in the pangs of eternal punishment. Will any who is once sunk into everlasting condemnation ever come to find season of repentance, and a way to escape? Never; that until is put for infinity; and the meaning is, He shall be ever paying, and shall never quit the debt, but shall be ever under punishment,

CHRYSOSTOM. By this is shewn that his punishment shall be increasing and eternal, and that he shall never pay. And however irrevocable are the graces and callings of God, yet wickedness has that force, that it seems to break even this law.

AUGUSTINE. (Serm. 83, 7.) or God says, Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven; (Luke 6:37.) I have first forgiven, forgive you then after Me; for if you forgive not, I will call you back, and will require again all that I had remitted to you. For Christ neither deceives nor is deceived; and He adds here, Thus will my heavenly Father do unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses. It is better that you should cry out with your mouth, and forgive in your heart, than that you should speak smoothly, and be unrelenting in your heart For the Lord adds, From your hearts, to the end that though, out of affection you put him to discipline, yet gentleness should not depart out of your heart. What is more beneficial than the knife of the surgeon? He is rough with the sore that the man may be healed; should he be tender with the sore, the man were lost.

JEROME. Also this, from your hearts, is added to take away all feigned reconciliations. Therefore the Lord’s command to Peter under this similitude of the king and his servant who owed him ten thousand talents, and was forgiven by his lord upon his entreaty, is, that he also should forgive his fellow-servants their lesser trespasses.

ORIGEN. He seeks to instruct us, that we should be ready to shew clemency to those who have done us harm, especially if they offer amends, and plead to have forgiveness.

RABANUS. Allegorically; The servant here who owed the ten thousand talents, is the Jewish people bound to the Ten Commandments in the Law. These the Lord oft forgave their trespasses, when being in difficulties they besought His mercy; but when they were set free, they exacted the utmost with great severity from all their debtors; and of the gentile people which they hated, they required circumcision and the ceremonies of the Law; yea, the Prophets and Apostles they barbarously put to death. For all this the Lord gave them over into the hands of the Romans as to evil spirits, who should punish them with eternal tortures.

 

SOURCE: eCatholic 2000

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