“Mercy Me, Please, Mercy Me!” – Matthew 18:21-35†



Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time



Today’s Content:


  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Quote of the Day
  • Today’s Gospel Reading
  • Gospel Reflection
  • Reflection Prayer
  • New Translation of the Mass
  • A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
  • Franciscan Formation Reflection
  • Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule




Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:


Today is Patriot’s Day.  Please keep all individuals involved (directly or indirectly) with the evil of terrorism in your prayers today, and every day.  2,977 souls lost to 19 hijackers on four planes.  In addition, 6,294 people were reported to have been treated in area hospitals for injuries related to the 9/11 attacks in New York City.  Individuals from more than 90 countries were directly affected on this ill-fated day.  Please Lord, let us not forget these brave souls, and their sacrifice at the hands of pure evil.

(Information obtained from Wikipedia.)


Wednesday September 14 is the Feast of the Cross.  According to legends that spread widely throughout Western Europe, the true Cross was discovered in 326 by Saint Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, during a pilgrimage she made to Jerusalem.  The Church of the Holy Sepulcher was then built at the site of the discovery, by order of Helena and Constantine.


September 14th It is also a very important day for Franciscans.  It was on this feast that St. Francis of Assisi received the “stigmata”.  During the Lent of 1224, two years before his death, his mind and heart turned frequently to meditate upon the suffering of Christ and His obedience to the Father.  Retreating with Friar Leo into the wilderness, Francis agonized over the great pain that Jesus experienced and thanked our Lord for the supreme sacrifice that He had endured.

On 14 September 1224, in the solitude of prayer on Mount Alverna, while praising God and pouring out his love for Him, Francis beheld the crucified Christ borne aloft by six wings.  In this moment of seraphic ecstasy, he who had sought to imitate Christ in all things, received the marks of his Lord’s crucifixion—the stigmata—on his hands, feet, and side, two years before Sister Death came to him.

And so, when the world was growing cold, Christ renewed the marks of His passion in the flesh of Saint Francis to rekindle our love for God.  By bearing the marks of the crucifixion in his body, Francis experienced an even deeper union with Jesus.  Thus, the God whom Francis had cherished, both as the child of Bethlehem and as the victim at Calvary, brought the Saint into more perfect conformity with His Son.

“Heavenly Father, you gave your servant Francis the grace of intimate union with your crucified Son.  Help us with the cross we bear that, united with you, we too may know the peace and joy that Francis received.  We ask this in Jesus’ Name.  Amen.”

(from the website: http://www.shrinesf.org/francis08.htm)






Today in Catholic History:


†   506 – The bishops of Visigothic Gaul meet in the Council of Agde.
†   1226 – The Roman Catholic practice of public adoration of the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass spreads from monasteries to parishes.
†   1279 – Death of Robert Kilwardby, Archbishop of Canterbury (b. c. 1215)
†   1557 – Catholic & Lutheran theology debated in Worm
†   1838 – Birth of John Ireland, American Catholic archbishop (d. 1918)
†   1914 – Birth of Patriarch Pavle, Patriarch of Serbian Orthodox Church
†   1987 – Shoot out at Jean-Bertrand Aristides’ (former Catholic Priest) church in Haiti, 12 die
†   2001 – Coordinated attacks resulting in the collapse or severe damage of several skyscrapers at the World Trade Center in New York City, destruction of the western portion of The Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and an intentional passenger airliner crash in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  Two thirds of rescuers (FD, PD, EMS) in New York were Roman Catholics.
†   2004 – All passengers are killed when a helicopter crashes in the Aegean Sea. Passengers include Patriarch Peter VII of Alexandria and 16 others (including journalists and bishops of the Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria).
†   Feasts/Memorials: Beheading of John the Baptist in the Eastern Orthodox tradition (Julian Calendar); Feast of Neyrouz, the New Year’s Day in the Coptic calendar

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com &/OR
“Today in Catholic History”





Quote of the Day:



“He that cannot forgive others, breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass if he would reach heaven: for everyone has need to be forgiven.” ~ Thomas Fuller




Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching that we must forgive one another AS God has forgiven us.



(NAB Matthew 18:21-35) 21Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him?  As many as seven times?”  22Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.  23That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants.  24When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.  25Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt.  26At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’  27Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.  28When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount.  He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’  29Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’  30But he refused.  Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt.  31Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair.  32His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!  I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.  33Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’  34Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.  35So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”




Gospel Reflection:



Today’s Gospel reading is known as:

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.”

This is the final section (of three) of Jesus’ “Discourse on the Church”, and deals with forgiveness which His disciples are to give to fellow disciples who sin against them.

Today’s Gospel reading directly follows last week’s Gospel in which Jesus taught the disciples how to handle disputes and conflict within the first-century Jewish (predominately) Catholic (Universal) Christian community.  In today’s reading, Peter asks Jesus how many times one should give forgiveness to another.

Jesus also gives a lesson on how mercy and justice go together.  In the Old Covenant, the Old Testament, the prophet “Amos” speaks of God forgiving transgression three times, but warns of God punishing for the fourth:

For three crimes of …, and now four— I will not take it back.”(see Amos 1:3-13; 2:1-6). 

Peter proposes a reasonable number of times, i.e., perhaps “seven”.  Jesus Christ replies by expanding Peter’s proposal by an “enormous” amount; not just seven times should one forgive, but 77 times (perfectly complete AND completely prefect and complete [will explain a little later]).  Through the parable, we come to understand the depths of God’s mercy toward us and the results of our acceptance of God’s forgiveness.




To the question Peter asks about how often forgiveness is to be granted (verse 21), Jesus answers that it is to be given without limit (verse 22).  He further illustrates His answer with a parable about the unmerciful and unforgiving servant (verses 23–34).  Through this parable, Jesus is warning ALL OF US that His heavenly Father will give those who do not forgive the same treatment as that given to the unmerciful servant (verse 35). 

Matthew 18:21–22 corresponds to Luke 17:4:

“If he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.” (Luke 17:4).

However, today’s parable and Jesus’ final warning are distinctive to Matthew’s Gospel.  It is suggested by some biblical scholars that today’s parable did not originally belong to this situation.  This reason is that it really does not deal with repeated forgiveness, which is the point of Peter’s question and Jesus’ reply.




Why does Peter ask Jesus (in verse 21) if he must forgive someone “as many as seven times”?  For part of the answer, let’s look at the meaning of the number seven in Holy Scripture. (Information obtained from http://www.BibleStudy.org.)

Seven, in Hebrew, is “shevah”.  It is from the root, “savah”, meaning to be full or satisfied.  Hence the meaning of the word “seven” is dominated by this root meaning of fullness and complete satisfaction.  On the seventh day God rested from the work of Creation.  His creation was full and complete, and good and perfect.  Nothing could be added to it or taken from it without marring it.  Hence the word, “Shavath”, means to cease, desist, rest, and “Shabbath”, “Sabbath”, is the “day of rest”.  

It is seven, therefore, that impresses (and means) perfection and completeness in connection with which it is used.  It marks off the week of seven days, which, arbitrary as it may seem to be, is universal and immemorial in its observance among all nations, and in all times.  A “Seven Day Week” passes on an eternal “Sabbath-keeping”, which “keeps on” for the people of God in all its everlasting perfection.


In the creative works of God, “seven” completes the colors of the spectrum and rainbow; it satisfies in music the notes of the scale. In both, the eighth is only a repetition of the first.

Another meaning of the root, “Savah”, is to swear, or make an oath.  This oath is clear from its first occurrence in Genesis:

“This is why the place is called Beer-sheba; the two of them took an oath there.” (Genesis 21:31),  

in which this oath was based upon the “seven ewe lambs“:

“Abraham also set apart seven ewe lambs of the flock, and Abimelech asked him, ‘What is the purpose of these seven ewe lambs that you have set apart?’  Abraham answered, ‘The seven ewe lambs you shall accept from me that you may be my witness that I dug this well.’ (Genesis 21:28-30),

points to the idea of satisfaction or fullness in an oath.  


The Greek translation of “Seventy-seven times” (verse 22) corresponds exactly to a verse in Genesis:

“If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.” (Genesis 4:24).

There is a probable reference, though by difference, to limitless vengeance implied in the verse relating to “Lamech” in the Genesis text.  However, Jesus’ answer demands “limitless forgiveness” – – Perfectly AND Completely – – on the part of His disciples!!




The “Master” in today’s parable decides to settle accounts with his servants.  We are told that one particular servant owed him an “enormous” sum of money.  Although the servant promises to repay everything, it is unlikely that he would ever be able to repay the debt that he owes.  However, the Master listens to his servant and is moved by the humility of his pleading, and mercifully forgives the entire debt.  

God will settle our account which we have with Him, in the SAME way we settle our accounts with others.  Let us all remember the “Golden Rule”:

Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.” (Matthew 7:12)

So, how much did this servant owe.  You will be amazed at what I found out about this debt.  A huge amount, per biblical scholars, literally meant, “ten thousand talents” (per NAB footnotes).  The “talent” (A Hebrew coin) was a unit of coinage of high, yet varying value, depending on its metal (gold, silver, copper) and its place of origin.  It is mentioned in the New Testament only in today’s reading, and in the “Parable of the Talents” (cf., Matthew 25:14–30).

To emphasize the worth of a “talent”, it took 8883 denaii (=/-)* to make ONE talent.  One denarius (a Roman coin) was the usual payment for an entire days work.  Thus, ten thousand talents was equivalent to payment for slightly over 204,203 YEARS of work (I assume pre-taxed).  In Jesus’ time, this amount would have been greater than the total revenue of an entire province!  (This “Master” must have been the “Bill Gates” of his day.)  [* per “Talents (Biblical Hebrew) to Denarius (Biblical Roman) Conversion Calculator”]




In those days, justice was swift.  Justice will also be swift at the “Final Judgment” (the Parousia) as well.  At the Parousia, it will be TOO LATE to justify your account; it needs to be taken care of NOW!!

The servant says to his master, “I will pay you back in full” (verse 26).  This is a grossly empty promise, given the size of his “enormous” debt.  As I said a moment ago, there was no probable way he could ever repay such a large amount.

There is no offence which can be done to us that would compare with OUR debt to God the Father!  We have been forgiven a debt way beyond all paying, just like the servant in this reading.  In order to ransom our debt of sin, God the Father gave up His only begotten Son.  And God the Son (Jesus Christ) paid our debt (my debt and your debt!)!  If God forgave each of us our debt to Him, which was (and still is) very great, “enormous” in fact, then we too must forgive others the debt they owe us, completely and perfectly!!

The servant asked for forgiveness, and his “Master” granted his request.  All we have to do is two things.  First, acknowledge our sins and call it by name.  And second, to ask sincerely for forgiveness.  God, our Father, our Master, will certainly grant our personal request as well.  Do not hesitate: go to confession NOW!! – – (PLEASE!)




Rather than displaying gratitude for this forgiveness, the servant confronted a fellow servant who owed him a small debt, a pittance when compared with the amount owed to his Master.  The unmerciful servant refused the pleas of his fellow servant, sending him to prison.

Did this servant show the same kindness and mercy toward another that was shown to him? … NO!!  He “sought out” another who owed him a debt of just a few hundred denarii: “a much smaller amount” (verse 28).  Remember, a denarius was the normal daily wage of a laborer, and the difference between these two debts is enormous.  This comparison (or actually, a lack of comparison due to the enormous difference in amount) signals a lesson in the absurdity and travesty of the conduct from a Catholic Christian who has received a great grace (a beautiful gift) of forgiveness from God the Father, then refuses to forgive the relatively minor offenses done to him by others.

“I wouldn’t do that!” may be your response.  Well, remember this reflection the next time someone does something nice for you, and you repay by ridiculing, slandering, or defaming another only a short time later.  Have you ever received Christ in the Eucharist, and then thought poorly of another in the communion line; or, said (even yelled) a swear word to another while driving home from THAT mass?  Hmm!!




Jesus teaches that one must forgive in order to be forgiven.  If we do not forgive our fellow man we cannot expect God to forgive us.  If we want mercy shown to us, we must be ready to forgive others as God the Father has already forgiven us (Because of Jesus Christ’s redemptive sacrifice, His investment in us.).

Remember, your actions have repercussions.  If you treated others of God creation with disrespect, why would you expect “respect” from God the Creator?  If you disregard others, God will most certainly disregard you as well.  Hmm, think of these words: “disrespect” and “disregard”.  If you “dis-” others, God the Father will “dis-” you as well. 


Then, a few other servants tell the merciful Master about the unforgiving actions of his servant.  Then the Master calls his servant to an account; and punishes the “unforgiving servant” because he refused to show the same kind of mercy given to him previously from his Master.  Jesus, in today’s parable, concludes by declaring emphatically that this is how it will be with God the Father toward those who refuse to forgive another.

Just like Santa Claus, God the Father knows who has been “Naughty and Nice”.  He doesn’t need a checklist or a group of “elves” to keep track of our sins and iniquities since they are written on our souls.  Only the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) can wipe the soul totally clean.




The servant’s Master in today’s reading was “dissed” with the servant’s actions towards another as well.  He summoned him, he judged him; and he sentenced him.  It was too late for repaying any debt, any amount.  Since this “sinners’ debt was so great as to be realistically un-payable (verse 34), his punishment would be endless.

Interestingly, in this thought, I find some relative comfort and hope.  If our sins are too great, our reward will obviously be eternal damnation and separation, the ultimate “dis-” appointment.  However, knowing I am not an angelic being (my mother and wife call me a “fallen” angel anyway), I know that a small amount of sin will not permanently separate me from my Lord.  There is hope in knowing that a small amount of sin and iniquities can be purified in “purgatory” prior to ascending to the highest heaven.  There are many references in both the Old and New Testaments to a place we know as “Purgatory”.  Here is just two:

Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.” (Matthew 5:26)”,


Nothing unclean will enter it, nor any[one] who does abominable things or tells lies.  Only those will enter whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelations 21:27).

(Regarding “purgatory”, please review the following: Matthew 5:48, 12:32, 12:36; Hebrew 12:14; James 1:14-15, 3:2; 1 John 5:16-17;  2 Samuel 12:13-14; 2 Maccabees 12:44-46; 1 Corinthians 3:15, 15:29-30; 1 Peter 3:18-20, 4:6; and 2 Timothy 1:16-18.  (If you know of others, please let me know.)




To summarize, God the Father’s forgiveness has already been given to us through Jesus’ Sacrificial investment in me and all of us, through our baptism, and continuing through the special graces of all the Sacraments which perfectly complete and mature us as members of the Catholic Church, God’s family on earth.  Jesus made it very clear that God the Father will also withdraw His mercy and forgiveness at the “Final Judgment” for those who have not imitated His forgiveness by their own actions during their earthly life:

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)

 There is an ever-present temptation to quantify forgiveness as Peter tried to do.  But, Jesus’ point is one of forgiveness – – NOT in quantity, (the number of times we extend forgiveness to another) – – but in the quality of attitude, i.e., in perfect and complete mercy (forgiveness) to ALL, even unto our enemies.   


In today’s parable, the Master’s forgiveness is analogous to God’s forgiveness toward us.  His forgiveness and mercy should be used to transform us, (inside – outside), helping us to be as forgiving as God the Father is toward us.  The lesson, the moral of the story, is exceptionally clear: If we hoard God’s mercy while showing no mercy to others, we, in fact, forfeit the effects of God’s mercy in our lives.

The Evangelist James says that judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy:

“Judgment is merciless to one who has not shown mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.”  (James 2:13). 

Mercy is a true gift – – a grace – – offered in a way in which “justice” is not disregarded.  Mercy “seasons” justice as “salt” seasons meat and vegetables, giving them flavor.  Mercy follows justice, and “perfects” it.  Mercy, with justice, is a delightful meal to consume, and is exactly what we obtain with each Eucharistic celebration. 




To conclude, we learned (and continue to learn) to trust God’s mercy and forgiveness through experiencing forgiveness from those closest to us, our family and friends.  Today’s Gospel reminds us that forgiveness is measured by its quality more than its quantity.

Consider times recently when you or another sought the forgiveness of another.  Were any statements made, putting “conditions” on forgiveness, such as “I will do this if you do that” or “I will accept your apology if or when ….”  

Do you sometimes “keep count” or “put conditions” on your forgiveness of another?  Do you find yourself sounding like Peter, concerned with quantity of forgiveness rather than offering forgiveness abundantly and unconditionally? – – rather than offering forgiveness perfectly and completely?  This is something you may be doing without even realizing, so please reflect on your attitude, as well as your behavior when offering forgiveness. 

What does the servant do to make his Master so angry, so “dissed”?  Well, the answer is simple: he refuses to forgive his fellow man’s debt.  Because we have all received God’s forgiveness, God the Father expects that we will also be forgiving toward others.  Do you hold any grudge or resentment towards anyone?  Please, please, PLEASE release these vices, these hindrances, and these malice’s toward others, before it is TOO LATE!!

Jesus’ answer to Peter’s question of how many times to forgive another, at the end of today’s parable, is found in the attitude and intention to forgive, as described in the following words:

“… forgives his brother from his heart(Matthew 18:35).

Therefore, the number of times we forgive another is, in reality, less important than the depth of our forgiveness.  So, we must forgive one another from the heart, and with unconditional love – – perfectly and completely! – – Because God has forgiven us from His heart, with unconditional love, perfectly and completely – – FIRST!!







Reflection Prayer:


Our Father


Our Father, Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And, forgive us our trespasses,
– – AS – – we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.






Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO






New Translation of the Mass


In November of 2011, with the start of the new Liturgical year and Advent, there will be a few noticeable changes in the Mass.  It will still be the same ritual for celebrating the Eucharist.  The Mass will still have the same parts, the same patterns, and the same flow as it has had for the past several decades.  It is only the translation of the Latin that is changing.

The new translation seeks to correspond much more closely to the exact words and sentence structure of the Latin text.  At times, this results in a good and faithful rendering of the original meaning.  At other times it produces a rather awkward text in English which is difficult to proclaim and difficult to understand.  Most of those problems affect the texts which priests will proclaim rather than the texts that belong to the congregation as a whole.  It is to the congregation’s texts that I will address with each blog, in a repetitive basis until the start of Advent.

In the words of Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, #11, the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of Christian life. Anything we can do to understand our liturgy more deeply will draw us closer to God.


A second option for the “penitential rite” (the “Confiteor” being the first option) has been revised.  This second form had been little used in recent years.  The second option is presently:

Lord, we have sinned against you:|
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord, show us your mercy and love.
And grant us your salvation.

May almighty God have mercy on us,
forgive us our sins,
and bring us to everlasting life.  Amen.

It will now read as follows:

The priest says, “Have mercy on us, O Lord.”
The people respond, “For we have sinned against you.
Then the priest says, “Show us, O Lord, your mercy,”
and the people respond, “And grant us your salvation.”

Material from “Changing How We Pray”, by Rev. Lawrence E. Mick




A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Jean-Gabriel Perboyre (1802-1840)


A sermon he heard at age 15 inspired today’s saint to become a missionary in China.  There he met a brutal death on a cross for refusing to renounce his faith.

Born in France in 1802, Jean-Gabriel became a Vincentian priest.  He displayed so many gifts and had such fine personal and spiritual qualities that, for a time, his religious order kept him busy closer to home.

He finally received permission to begin his missionary endeavors in 1835.  After a 1,000-mile trip by boat and foot across three provinces, he arrived in central China.  In one early letter written to his community in Paris he described himself as a curious sight: “my head shaved, a long pig-tail, stammering my new languages, eating with chopsticks.”

He soon joined the Vincentians in helping to rescue abandoned Chinese children and in educating them in the Catholic faith.  He was arrested in 1839 under an edict that banned Christianity.  He was tortured and interrogated for months.  Almost one year later he was executed by strangling while hanging on a cross.

St. Jean-Gabriel was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1996.  Chinese government officials denied permission for any public Mass commemorating the new saint.

Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.;
revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
(From http://www.americancatholic.org website)



 Franciscan Formation Reflection:




What does the liturgy at Mass mean when it uses the word “Peace” several times before Communion?

Is the “sign of peace” at Mass – only a gesture? … Or, is it a prayer? 

What meanings do I give the “sign of peace” at Mass?

Do we (do I) let Christ “guide our feet into the way of peace”?

How do examples and principles of prominent people (and neighbors) in our lifetime fulfill your call to peace? 

Can you give examples?






Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Subsection #’s 11 & 12 of 26:

11. Trusting the Father, Christ chose for Himself and His mother a poor and humble life, even though He valued created things attentively and lovingly. Let the Secular Franciscans seek a proper spirit of detachment from temporal goods by simplifying their own material needs. Let them be mindful that according to the gospel they are stewards of the goods received for the benefit of God’s children.

 Thus, in the spirit of the Beatitudes, and as pilgrims and strangers on their way to the home of the Father, they should strive to purify their hearts from every tendency and yearning for possession and power.




12. Witnessing to the good yet to come and obligated to acquire purity of heart because of the vocation they have embraced, they should set themselves free to love God and their brothers and sisters.




4 responses »

  1. Pingback: “Mercy Me, Please, Mercy Me!” – Matthew 18:21-35† |

  2. Pingback: “Mercy Me, Please, Mercy Me!” – Matthew 18:21-35† | Kids say :

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s