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Sunday Mass Times in Blessington Parish
Blessington
Saturday Vigil 6.00pm
Sunday 10.00am 11.00am 7.30pm
Crosschapel
Sunday
12.00 noon
Manor Kilbride
Sunday
11.00am
Blessington Union of Parishes, Church of Ireland.
For information on Services for Blessington Union of Parishes please click here

Fr Kevin Lyon. Archdeacon of Glendalough.

Gospel      Matthew 18:21-35
I tell you, not seven, but seventy-seven times.

Peter went up to Jesus 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; but 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. “Give me time” he said “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. “Pay what you owe me” he said. His fellow servant fell at his feet and implored him, saying, “Give me time 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 him. “You wicked servant,” he said “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.’

THE FORGIVEN
 

Clint Eastwood’s 1992 movie ‘The Unforgiven’ tells the story of a former gunslinger who is trying to reform his life.  He marries, quits drinking and begins to raise a family. But his wife dies, and he is not very good at farming. He feels unforgiven as the ghosts from his ‘pistol-packing’ past haunt him. Unable to resist the lure of a $5,000 bounty, he returns to his former ways and rides off on a final mission.  Today’s Gospel story is about the forgiven. Even though we may have done bad things in the past, God forgives us. He gives us a new beginning and he expects us to be forgiving too when we say, ‘forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us’. 

In this Gospel (Matt 18:21-35) Jesus affirms that no limit can be placed on the number of times we should forgive another’s wrongdoing and he also describes the quality of that forgiveness: we are to forgive one another ‘from the heart’. Forgiveness from the heart is a deliberate decision on the part of the one who forgives. Unlike the Western mindset, that often associates the heart with emotions and feelings, people in the ancient Near East saw the heart as the seat of the intellect. Forgiveness is a rational act of the will, which may or may not have the added bonus of making us feel good about our decision. Forgiveness based solely on feeling will not endure; therefore, those who belong to Jesus are to forgive ‘from the heart’.

To make his point more clearly, Jesus told the parable of a king settling his accounts with his servants. Based on the amount the first servant owed, it would seem that he was a high official, perhaps responsible for collecting revenue for the king from an entire province. This figure was meant to go far beyond one’s mental grasp, like the billions we hear about today.  The one who is forgiven the enormous debt meets another member of the royal household who owes him three month’s wages. He grabs him by the throat and demands repayment. The other servant pleads for time. But there is no mercy. He has him imprisoned until the money can be raised. This is too much for his fellow servants. They report the matter to the king who now demands full payment. The point of the parable is clear; forgiveness is a two way process, ‘forgive us our debts, as we forgive those who are indebted to us’ – the point that Matthew has been emphasising from the beginning of the Gospel.  The first reading and the Gospel tell us why we should forgive. Sirach says it is because we too are ‘but flesh’, weak human beings who also seek God’s forgiveness. Jesus gives the same reason, and then he tells a story to emphasise that what God has forgiven us far exceeds what we are asked to forgive.

Rather than do what we can to resolve petty differences, we sometimes take people to court. Traffic misunderstandings result in road rage. What is happening to us? We do not easily forgive the human weaknesses of others – yet this is precisely what we are called to do. If we refuse to forgive from the depths of our hearts and constantly, we leave the court with our suit dismissed …. only to find ourselves in the dock among the accused.

                          
Fr. Kevin Lyon
Archdeacon of Glendalough