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Gospel for Sunday, September 17: Matthew 18: 21-35

XXIV Sunday A

21Then Peter approached him and said: “Lord, if my brother commits sins against me, how many times must I forgive him? Up to seven times?”. 22And Jesus answered him: “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. 23For this reason, the kingdom of heaven is similar to a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24He had begun to settle the accounts, when a man was introduced to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25Since he was unable to repay, the master ordered that he be sold with his wife, children and everything he owned, and thus pay off the debt. 26Then the servant, prostrate on the ground, begged him saying: “Have patience with me and I will give you everything back”. 27The master had compassion on that servant, let him go and forgave him the debt. 28As soon as he went out, that servant found one of his companions, who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him by the neck and choked him, saying: “Give back what you owe!”. 29His companion, prostrate on the ground, begged him, saying: “Be patient with me and I will restore you.” 30But he wouldn’t, he went and had him thrown into prison until he paid the debt. 31Seeing what happened, his companions were very sorry and went to tell their master everything that had happened. 32Then the master called the man and said to him: “You wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt because you prayed to me. 33Shouldn’t you also have had pity on your companion, just as I had pity on you?”. 34Disdained, the master handed him over to his torturers until he had repaid all he owed. 35So also my heavenly Father will do with you if you do not forgive from your heart, each of you his own brother.”

Mt 18: 21-35

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (

Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.

The Mass begins with a penitential act, in which we are invited to ask forgiveness from God and our brothers and sisters before “celebrating the Holy Mysteries”. The Didache already stated: “On the Lord’s Day, when you come together, break bread and give thanks; but first confess your sins, so that “your offering may be pure”. Whoever has a dispute with his neighbor cannot come forward before they are reconciled, so that «your offering is not desecrated»” (Didache 14,1-3).

Many times the penitential act is reduced to a pious rite, and we do not understand how this gesture is fundamental to experiencing a true Eucharist. Asking God for forgiveness is not just a personal confrontation with him: it is bringing all our brothers before the altar to see whether or not we are living relationships of communion with them. Reconciliation with our brothers is the “sine qua non condition” for being friends of God. “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Mt 6:12): God’s forgiveness is conditional on our forgiving ourselves between our.

Jesus explains this logic several times: “Be merciful as your Father is merciful…; do not condemn and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you…; for with the measure with which you mete, it will be measured to you in return” (Lk 6,36-38); “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you also; but if you do not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Mt 6:14-15). By the way, in today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the parable of the merciless servant whose Master cancels an immense debt, and who is then condemned because he does not know how to forgive another servant’s small debt (Mt 18,23-35).

We are faced with a mystery. God’s love precedes us: his love is free, and it comes to us while we are sinners, not forgivers. And if each of us waited to present ourselves to God only when he is fully at peace with all our brothers, we would never go before him. And this must be very clear.

But the immense Love of God is blocked if our heart is not open to our brothers. A heart closed to others stops the omnipotence of God. God’s forgiveness always precedes our reconciliation with others. But then he demands it in a cogent manner: the lack of pacification with others will nullify the mercy of God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Now, and this is a terrible thing, this flow of mercy cannot reach our heart until we have forgiven those who have offended us… In refusing to forgive our brothers and sisters, our heart closes and its hardness makes it impervious to the merciful love of the Father” (n. 2840). Only love of neighbor opens us to the love of God: only “he who loves knows God; he who does not love has not known God, because God is Love” (1 Jn 4,7-8).

How many times do communities instead experience situations of division, tension, resentment, and yet they still celebrate the Eucharist! Instead, let us also take seriously the liturgical invitation to exchange the “sign of peace”, which must not be a cold and ritual handshake or an anemic embrace of a neighbor, but a further moment of verification, before accessing Eucharistic communion, of our relationships with the brothers.

Note that it is not enough to reconcile with those we have offended: to be able to celebrate the Eucharist, we need to be in communion with anyone who “has something against” us: “If therefore you present your offering on the altar and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar and first go and be reconciled with your brother and then return to offer your gift” (Mt 5,23-24). Let’s think about how many brothers have complaints against us, because they are victims, for example, of an unjust world economy, of which we are often unaware creators: but the Eucharist is such a sacrament of communion that it also commits us to resolve all the disunity that as such they are felt by others, and of which perhaps we do not see ourselves personally guilty. John Chrysostom writes: “For what reason was Christ sacrificed? To put at peace the things of heaven and those of earth… What the Son of God has done in this way, do you also…, being a maker of peace for yourself and for others… Here because, at the moment of sacrifice, the only precept that he reminds you of is that of reconciling yourself with your brother, thus showing that he is more important than the others”.

We cannot approach the Eucharist if we are not at peace with our neighbour, if we live in realities of division, exploitation, inequality, if we are not capable of sharing our goods with the poor, if we do not fight for justice, if we do not we take it upon ourselves to change the unequal economic order that causes billions of our brothers to suffer from hunger and destitution.

Happy Mercy to all!

Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at


Spazio Spadoni

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