I did what I had to do! When fairness is not yet love

Commentary on the Gospel of 17 September 2023

Twenty-fourth Sunday of OT year A

If you rejoice when you are forgiven,
you must fear when you do not forgive

Saint Augustine, Discourse 114/A, 2
I did what I had to do!
I did what I had to do! 4

A new word

Around the 4th-5th century AD, a certain Romulus found himself translating from Greek into Latin a fable by Aesop, which told of a man condemned to death, al quale era stata condonata la pena: come tradurre quel dono della life that interrupted the ordinary course of justice? Could it simply be a gift?

Romulus realized that he was faced with an exceptional, extraordinary gift, which could not be equated with any other gift. This is why he minted for the first time the word 'pardon'. From the beginning, therefore, the term 'forgiveness' was born to indicate something that goes beyond justice or respect for the rules.

The pardon è tale se è immeritato: I should have die and instead I find myself saved. The origin of the term also clarifies why the gift of a new possibility of life is implicit in forgiveness: it is truly about giving back the life.

But this does not only apply to those who receive forgiveness: forgiveness also gives life back to me who offers it, because it frees me from the resentment that kills.

Serve together

We then understand why it is so difficult to truly find ourselves faced with an experience of forgiveness, and yet parable that Jesus tells in these verses of Gospel of Matteo it also explains why the community, whatever it is, can only survive if it is continually confronted with the need for forgiveness.

Interpersonal relationships, however, die when we no longer forgive each other. We continually need to understand the other to give him a new chance.

It is no coincidence that Matteo uses an original term to indicate the companions who are the protagonists of the story, not only the two indebted servants, but also the other spectators of the scene, They are calledserve-together, con un unico termine, per indicare la nostra identità comune di gente a service della vita, persone legate indissolubilmente l’una all’altra.

When forgiveness is lacking, a vital bond is broken: we are no longer together as we should be.

In conscience

Peter, which asks the initial question and which gives Jesus the opportunity to tell the parable, represents the voice of conscience, the conscience that wants to feel okay, that does not want to be continually questioned.

Pietro wants to quantify love, he wants a limit a mercy, vuole una misura che gli permetta di sentirsi giusto. Ad un certo punto vorrebbe dire: «Enough! I did what I had to do!".

Jesus instead teaches him that forgiveness has no measure, precisely because there is never a moment in which we stop needing to forgive each other.

I remember

Life is continually a call for forgiveness.

But we can only find this strength to forgive if we remember all the times that we ourselves, in secret, have been forgiven by Father our.

Ciascuno sa nel suo heart quale sia il grande debito che gli è stato condonato.

In fact, the first servant in the parable is forgiven a very high debt: ten thousand talents! Let's just think about the fact that one talent was equivalent to 25kg of silver and that in the parable of the talents the first servant is entrusted with five talents.

On the contrary, the second servant contracted a debt that was not particularly large: one hundred denarii, just over three months of work, given that one denarius was the average salary for a day's work.

A risk

The forgiven servant, but incapable of mercy, does not know the patience he himself enjoyed. He can't wait for his change brother, he doesn't know how to give time, is unable to offer a new possibility.

Forgiveness is always a risk: we never know if the other will welcome it, if he will make good use of it, if he will be able to reciprocate, but all this no longer concerns the one who offers forgiveness. Forgiveness is such precisely when it is totally free.

Forgiveness is inevitably a risk! If forgiveness becomes calculation, then it can no longer be called that.

In the community

The parable told by Jesus also highlights that forgiveness is not just a personal matter, but affects the community.

Jesus wants to help us reflect on the relationships within the community: the other servants who see the scene do not remain indifferent to the injustice, but pray to the master so that the process of mercy can get back into motion. Those who are not capable of forgiving destroy the life of the community.

Today we realize even more how the lack of mercy, replaced by judgment and criticism, is destroying the social fabric.

But unfortunately this happens when we begin to forget, when we only know how to see the other's mistake and we no longer remember how many times we ourselves should have died and instead find ourselves still alive.

Read inside

  • Are you able to remember all the times you have been forgiven?
  • Are you willing to understand those who made mistakes and give them time to change?

Courtesy © ♥ Father Gaetano Piccolo SJ

Let's listen together

The Gospel of the day
The Gospel of the day
I did what I had to do!
I did what I had to do! 2
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Hi, I'm Remigio Ruberto, father of Eugenio. The love that binds me to Eugenio is timeless and spaceless.

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