Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
September 17, 2023
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.








Look upon us, O God,
Creator and ruler of all things,
and, that we may feel the working of your mercy,
grant that we may serve you with all our heart.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever. Amen.

First Reading Sir 27:30-28:7 

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. Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven. Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing 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.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 103:1-2,3-4,9-10,11-12

R. The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, 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/.

He pardons all your iniquities,
heals all your ills.
He redeems your life from destruction,
crowns you with kindness and compassion. R/.

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/.

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,
so far has he put our transgressions from us. R/.

Second Reading Rom 14:7-9

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. For this is why Christ died and came to life, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

Alleluia Jn 13:34

Gospel Mt 18:21-35

Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as 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.  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.”

Catena Nova

We are all in debt to God, just as other people are in debt to us. Is there anyone who is not God’s debtor? Only a person in whom no sin can be found. And is there anyone who has no brother or sister in his debt? Only if there be someone who has never suffered any wrong. Do you think anyone can be found in the entire human race who has not in turn wronged another in some way, incurring a debt to that person? No, all are debtors, and have others in debt to them. Accordingly, God who is just has told you how to treat your debtor, because he means to treat his in the same way…. If we think of our sins, reckoning those we have committed by sight, hearing, thought, and countless disorderly emotions, I do not know whether we can even sleep without falling into debt. And so, every day we pray; every day we beat upon God’s ears with our pleas; every day we prostrate ourselves before him saying: Forgive us our trespasses, as we also forgive those who trespass against us. Which of our trespasses, all of them or only some? All, you will answer. Do likewise, therefore, with those who have offended you. (St. Augustine)
Christ gave his life for you, and do you hold a grudge against your fellow servant? How then can you approach the table of peace? Your Master did not refuse to undergo every kind of suffering for you, and will you not even forgo your anger?… If you refuse to forgive your enemy you harm not him but yourself… There is no one God detests and repudiates more than the person who bears a grudge, whose heart is filled with anger, whose soul is seething with rage. (Saint John Chrysostom)
To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. (CS Lewis)


Putting up with annoying people: This too is a work of mercy, and we don’t always recognize it as such. Living side by side, we Christians certainly try to love one another according to Jesus’ example and commandment. But despite everyone’s good will, occasionally people with very different personalities end up living together. Thus it is comforting to know that to put up with others is a work of mercy: to endure their behavior, their awkward manner, their nagging; basically to lovingly disregard what are really minor shortcomings. Similar to feeding the hungry and visiting the sick, this is one of the works that will be asked of us at our final examination (Chiara Lubich).


God's forgiveness is unconditional; it comes from a heart that does not demand anything for itself, a heart that is completely empty of self-seeking. It is this divine forgiveness that I have to practice in my daily life. It tells me to keep stepping over all my arguments that say forgiveness is unwise, unhealthy, and impractical. It challenges me to step over all my needs for gratitude and compliments. Finally, it demands of me that I step over that wounded part of my heart that feels hurt and wronged and that wants to stay in control and put a few conditions between me and the one I am asked to forgive. This "stepping over" is the authentic discipline of forgiveness (Henri Nouwen). 

Someone can give up doing something held a vice only to turn into a persecutor of those who lack his same moral fibre. That is not a Christian conversion. The authentic convert always writes a story of his or her discovery of mercy, which means that they learn to create mercy, and not despite, for others. This rule of grammar we find set out in the parable of the servant who was let off all he owed by the King his creditor, but who didn’t forgive the tiny debt his colleague had with him (Matt. 18:23-34) (James Alison).

Today’s parable helps us to grasp fully the meaning of that phrase we recite in the Lord’s Prayer: “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” (see Mt 6:12). These words contain a decisive truth. We cannot demand God’s forgiveness for ourselves if we in turn do not grant forgiveness to our neighbour. It is a condition. Think of your end, of God’s forgiveness, and stop hating. Reject resentment, that bothersome fly that keeps coming back. If we do not strive to forgive and to love, we will not be forgiven and loved either. (Pope Francis)


 I can imagine Simon Peter devising a scoresheet to tally the number of times he might have forgiven someone something and making sure they did not exceed the limit of seventy-seven sins against him.  Perhaps you can think of someone yourself who has met their quota!  But then, to make sure good old literal Peter did not misunderstand, the Lord — in good rabbinic style — exaggerates the point.  That "huge amount" — which for some reason our translation obscures — was ten thousand talents, an amount worth millions of  dollars and several hundred thousand years' wage.  So forget about ever repaying it.  By contrast, the "much smaller amount" owed by the other servant — a hundred denarii — was worth about four month's wages.  The translator, once again, obscures the astronomical contrast.  Why is that important and where might we find a living parable to highlight these utterly different scenarios?
Let's begin with the Merciless Servant drowning in debt that's impossible to repay — represented by a trio of the worst humanity has to offer in the heartless department   They are  Eilert Dieken, a regional head of the Nazi military police in wartime Poland, a subordinate by the name of Josef Kokott, and a member of a local police force under Nazi control called Wlodzimierz Les.  And how did they incur their debt?  Among other atrocities, they were responsible for the deaths of 8 Polish Jews and 9 Polish Catholics in March of 1944, the latter all from the same family.  The latter's crime?  They sheltered the former on their farm in defiance of the Nazi pogrom the penalty for which was summary execution.  Les betrayed them, Dieken gave the order, and Kokott was among the executioners.  After the war, Dieken served in the police in Germany, Les was sentenced to death and executed by the Polish resistance, and Kokott was tried for the murders and died in prison in 1980. 
The ones to whom the "huge amount" is owed are six members of a Jewish family by the name of Szall and two sisters, Golda and Layla Goldman.  The Polish Catholics are parents Józef and Wiktoria Ulma and their 7 children: StanisÅ‚awa, age 8, Barbara, age 7, WÅ‚adysÅ‚aw, age 6, Franciszek, age 4, Antoni, age 3 and Maria, age 2 and an unnamed male child to whom Wiktoria gave birth during her execution. The Ulma parents are recognized at the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, as "Righteous Among the Nations," while the entire Ulma family was beatified last Sunday in Markowa, Poland as martyrs of charity by the Catholic Church.
Now I cannot, and will not speak, for the Jewish victims in this story.  But I am fairly confident, at least for those capable of it, that the members of the Ulma family would extend cancellation of the whole debt owed them — without any of the unseemly begging of the Merciless Servant in the parable for relief.  They no doubt would concur with the words of Sirach: Forgive your neighbor’s injustice… Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the LORD? Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself, can he seek pardon for his own sins?… Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor (I). Add to that the Christian conviction that 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 (II).
But did the perpetrators ever seek such forgiveness whether in this life or in eternity?  Who can say?  Though I do think of words written by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams: “If forgiveness is ever to be realized for them, it is not only the face of their victims which must be ‘returned’ to them, but their own forgotten faces: the faces of themselves as their own victims, scarred and ruined by what they have done. They must see Christ, the saving victim, the merciful judge, not only in the victims whose blood is on their hands but in the self  they could and could not be, the self  they have decided against” (cf. Resurrection: Interpreting the Easter Gospel, 16; adapted)
For while it is certainly true the Ulma family was victim to the Nazi's violence, it is also true they were in turn victims of an ideology that fueled the hatreds unleashed during the Second World War — and in every other place where demagogues like Hitler have corrupted the human heart by fanning the flames of prejudice and grievance.  And lest we think this could "never happen here," at a Labor Day gathering my Jewish sister-in-law told how her mother consented to the Catholic side of her family's insistence she be baptized because, "It could save her life someday because this could all happen again."  And when I listen to what passes for political discourse in this country with its scapegoat du jour — the trans community at the moment — I share her mother's fears. 
And what of us who, like the second servant, either owe a much smaller amount ourselves or to whom such is owed by those in our debt?  Unless each of us forgives our brother or sister from our heart — we can expect little consideration.  And with an example such as given us by the Ulma family, I'd best be calling the bank and forgive them the loan (cf. G)



For the grace to forgive those who have wronged us: that God will free our hearts to forgive others as God forgives us.

For a deep awareness of God’s boundless forgiveness: that in the midst of our weaknesses, we may recognize how God’s forgiveness sustains us each day.

For all who have injured or wronged us: that God’s love will heal them and us so that we may walk together again in God’s service

For healing of anger and resentment: that the Spirit will heal those painful experiences and free us to live fully for Christ.

For freedom from vengeance and retaliation: that God will turn hearts from violence and increase our desire to seek the good for each person.

For all who have experienced violence, terrorism, or war: that God will help them break the cycle of violence and make life giving choices out of their pain.

For a healing of the nations: that world leaders may lay aside pride, image and threats so that the greater good may be advanced for all the human family.

For nations and communities in strife: that God will bring an end to violence and chaos in cities and the countryside, and open a pathway for justice and peace to be established.

For all who have been impacted by hurricanes, floods or wildfires: that God will give them strength, protect them from harm and give them hope.

For relief and aid workers: that God will renew their strength, keep them safe in their service, and sustain their families and loved ones.

For the members of Congress: that God will give them wisdom and insight as they debate and develop policies on immigration and refugee assistance.

For greater stewardship of the earth: that God will help us recognize the consequences of our actions and the impact that chemical usage will have on future generations.

O God most high, you are slow to anger and rich in compassion. Keep alive in us the memory of your mercy, that our angers may be calmed and our resentments dispelled. May we discover the forgiveness promised to those who forgive and become a people rich in mercy.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.



'Forgive our sins as we forgive,'
you taught us, Lord, to pray,
but you alone can grant us grace
to live the words we say.

How can your pardon reach and bless
the unforgiving heart,
that broods on wrongs and will not let
old bitterness depart?

In blazing light your cross reveals
the truth we dimly knew:
what trivial debts are owed to us,
how great our debt to you!

Lord, cleanse the depths within our souls,
and bid resentment cease;
then, bound to all in bonds of love,
our lives will spread your peace.

Communion Antiphon


Closing Hymn


There's a wideness in God's mercy
like the wideness of the sea;
there's a kindness in his justice,
which is more than liberty.
There is welcome for the sinner,
and more graces for the good;
there is mercy with the Savior;
there is healing in his blood.

There is no place where earth's sorrows
are more felt than in heaven;
there is no place where earth's failings
have such kind judgment given.
There is plentiful redemption
in the blood that has been shed;
there is joy for all the members
in the sorrows of the Head.

For the love of God is broader
than the measure of man's mind;
and the heart of the Eternal
is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more faithful,
we should take him at his word;
and our life would be thanksgiving
for the goodness of the Lord.