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A Scripture Reflection for the Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

by Sallie Latkovich, CSJ | September 17, 2017

A Scripture Reflection for the Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 17, 2017: Sir 27:30--28:7; Ps 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12; Rom 14:7-9; Mt 18:21-35

When Allie Lowell divorces her husband and gets custody of their two teenage children, she moves to New York City and moves in with her best friend, Kate McArdle, also divorced and raising a daughter.  They form a unique kind of family unit in this sitcom from the 1980s.  Its title was simply:  "Kate and Allie."  On one segment, all are at the dinner table except for Kate's teen-age daughter, Emma.  The phone rings and it is Emma.  When Kate (played by Jane Curtin) answers the phone, Emma says:  "Mom, I was arrested and am at the police station; can you come to pick me up?"  Kate, looking shocked and sad, replies that she will be right there. A commercial break follows this exchange, giving the viewer plenty of time to wonder what will happen.

The next scene has Kate at the police station, facing Emma whose eyes are cast down.  Emma explains:  "I was with my friends, and I shop-lifted a scarf; the store people called the police.  You probably hate me for what I have done."  Tenderly and with mercy, Kate lifts her daughter's chin and holds eye contact while saying:  "I could never hate you, I will always love you; but I do hate what you have done."

This is a fine illustration that forgiveness is of a person, not of an action.  We hear in the concluding verses from Sirach that we are neighbors according to the covenant.  Judgment and hate have no place here.  And, in Romans, we are reminded that we live for the Lord, who extends mercy and forgiveness.  In Matthew, Peter is told to forgive seventy-seven times-in other words, there is no limit to the number of times we must be willing to forgive.  Though the message is crystal clear, we have very few models of forgiveness in our world; in fact the opposite is true as people seek the "justice" of revenge.

Although the parable of the unforgiving servant is clearly about forgiveness, perhaps it is more about hypocrisy.  The one who experiences forgiveness then in fact refuses to forgive.   We are called by the Gospel not only to offer boundless forgiveness, but to forgive from the heart.  This is hard, to be sure.  We can desire to forgive, and only accomplish forgiveness by God's grace.  And, what of the debt repayment required at the end of the parable?  I turn to my colleague, Sr. Barbara Reid, OP, who articulates the meaning so well:

The point is not that God is fickle about forgiveness, taking it back if we do not do likewise; nor that God is vindictive if we fail to follow the divine lead.  Rather, the parable is a stark warning of the consequences of letting our hearts become solidified in unforgiveness.  A heart hardened in revenge sets in motion endless cycles of violence.  The parable exposes the way that our choice to forgive (or not) redounds on us . . . Nothing we can do can take the divine forgiveness away from us, but we can do things that hinder its powerful effect on us.  (from Abiding Word, Liturgical Press, 2013)

And thus, as the parent Kate and her daughter Emma in the sitcom, our God raises us up with love and forgiveness.  May we also forgive one another from the heart.

The above image is from the Public Domain.

Author information Sallie Latkovich, CSJ

Adjunct Professor of Biblical Spirituality
B.A., Cleveland State University; M.A. equivalent, St. Norbert College; D.Min., Graduate Theological Foundation

Sallie Latkovich's personal experience and interest is in ongoing education for religious women, as well as formation of a well-informed laity. In the tradition of Barbara Bowe, she teaches Biblical Foundations of Spirituality each spring semester. Sallie is also the Director of the Biblical Study and Travel Program as well as the Summer Institute.

Her publications include reflections on the Sunday readings for CTU, A Consumer's Guide to Spiritual DirectionMining the Meaning of the Bible (also in DVD format), and When Your Adult Children Don't Go to Mass. Sallie also recorded the CD set Matthew for Teaching and Preaching.

Books written by Sallie Latkovich

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