Memory of the Church

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Memorial of St. Maximilian Kobe, a priest who died as a martyr for love. He accepted death in the concentration camp of Auschwitz to save the life of another man

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I am the good shepherd,
my sheep listen to my voice,
and they become
one flock and one fold.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Matthew 18, 21-19,1

Then Peter went up to him and said, 'Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?'

Jesus answered, 'Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times.

'And so the kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a king who decided to settle his accounts with his servants.

When the reckoning began, they brought him a man who owed ten thousand talents;

he had no means of paying, so his master gave orders that he should be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, to meet the debt.

At this, the servant threw himself down at his master's feet, with the words, "Be patient with me and I will pay the whole sum."

And the servant's master felt so sorry for him that he let him go and cancelled the debt.

Now as this servant went out, he happened to meet a fellow-servant who owed him one hundred denarii; and he seized him by the throat and began to throttle him, saying, "Pay what you owe me."

His fellow-servant fell at his feet and appealed to him, saying, "Be patient with me and I will pay you."

But the other would not agree; on the contrary, he had him thrown into prison till he should pay the debt.

His fellow-servants were deeply distressed when they saw what had happened, and they went to their master and reported the whole affair to him.

Then the master sent for the man and said to him, "You wicked servant, I cancelled all that debt of yours when you appealed to me.

Were you not bound, then, to have pity on your fellow-servant just as I had pity on you?"

And in his anger the master handed him over to the torturers till he should pay all his debt.

And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart.'

Jesus had now finished what he wanted to say, and he left Galilee and came into the territory of Judaea on the far side of the Jordan.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Peter is ready to put up with the wrong done to him beyond what is required. The expression “seven times” is one of totality, that is, generosity in granting forgiveness. And he thinks he has been exemplary. But Jesus responds by abolishing all measure and proportion. Forgiveness, like love, is limitless. Jesus orders Peter to forgive seventy-seven times, that is, always. It is not enough to be generous. Generosity itself must be limitless. We cannot understand this as a rule, something we can reduce to counting, but only through love. A father or a mother forgives his or her child an infinite number of times, never ceasing to hope that he or she might change for they cannot accept condemnation without forgiveness. Jesus tells a parable in which he opposes the mentality of calculation and revenge to that of limitless love and forgiveness. It is clear in the Gospel that this is the only way to dismantle the mechanism that continuously regenerates sin, division, and revenge among men and women. The perverse force of evil, hatred, and war not only entangles the violent, it makes all those whom it touches violent. And it imprisons them in a way of thinking from which they cannot escape, even with an abundant measure of forgiveness, like Peter’s seven times. Seeing Peter’s perplexity, Jesus speaks of a king who is settling his accounts with his servants. One has an enormous debt: ten thousand talents. The servant mumbles a promise that he will never be able to keep. We all waste resources that are not our own. We are therefore debtors, like that servant, and we have taken on massive debts with our master. How? Above all, by believing ourselves to be masters of what has only been entrusted to us. And also through our adolescent and thoughtless attraction to risk, which ends up making us not value anything. Or through the drunkenness of abundance, which only leads us to consume things like drugs and leaves us slaves to the logic of satisfaction. Jesus reminds us that we are all debtors and that only the master’s compassion can satisfy the debt. If this awareness becomes personal, we can transfer mercy to others. But if we remain prisoners to the same mentality that led us to accumulate such an enormous debt in the first place, we will look harshly on those who ask us for something. We, who are quick to defend ourselves, know how to be demanding and inflexible to other people’s requests. The servant receives the harshest of condemnations. In truth, he has excluded himself from mercy.