Joy of the Gospel


Sunday 17 September 2023
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Reading- Sirach 27:30-28:7
Second Reading- Romans 14:7-9
Gospel Reading- Matthew 18:21-35
When I was in primary school, l had an elder brother who was teaching at the school I was
learning and held the office of Senior Master. One day during breaktime a boy from another
class bullied me and we fought. Let’s call him Tindo. We were brought before the Senior
Master. I knew in my mind that everything was going to be in my favour not only because the
Senior Master was my brother but also because l had not started the fight. There were witnesses
to testify in my favour and after all Tindo was known to be problematic the whole school. The
senior Master, my brother, spoke first to Tindo, questioning him why he always came to his
office because of mischief or bad behaviour. All Tindo could do was apologise and at times
remain silent. When l was asked what l wanted done to Tindo, with all anger and hatred towards
him, l wanted him to suffer for his actions. In reply, l asked that he be beaten. Surely my request
was granted. Tindo was asked to bend and he was flogged. I enjoyed seeing him groan, shrink
and moan. It was a beautiful sight. At the moment l was already imagining my brother and l in
the evening at home talking about the incident and laughing our lungs over Tindo’s beatings. I
felt so soothed to associate with my brother delivering due justice to the boy l hated to the core.
When Tindo had gotten his deserved share, something shocking happened. The Senior Master
pointed at me and said, “Now its your turn. What Tindo got you are also getting because you
fought. Now Bend over”. My joy instantly turned to deep and excruciating sorrow. Had l
forgiven Tindo and requested that he be set free, l would have not been beaten as well.
This is my story, what is yours? In light of the readings of today particularly the first (Sirach
27:30-28:7) we are to be drawn to a deepened spiritual consideration of the Law of forgiveness
as Christ taught in the Lord’s Prayer (….Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who
trespass against us), and as he addresses Peter today in the gospel: that one should not forgive
their fellowmen just seven times but seventy times seven times. The essence of the mission of
Christ on earth was to redeem us by way of pardoning our sins which he did through his death.
Sins of the whole world were forgiven. When you and l deny forgiveness to those who offend
us, we are completely out of good relationship with Christ. We are retaining our own offenses
which should be pardoned and cancelled when we pardon those who offend us. It is that straight
forward, when we forgive others, their sins are forgiven and ours are forgiven too. Surely this
does embrace what St.Paul says in the second reading today that; “No-one lives to himself
(herself), and none of us dies to himself (herself) (Romans 14:7).
At mass, after preparing the gifts, the priest invites us to pray that the Lord accepts the gifts.
He then invites us to offer our very selves to the Lord when he says “Lift up your Hearts”, to
which we respond, “We lift them up to the Lord”. How many times have we said we lift our
hearts to the Lord when they are laden with grudges, hatred, and stained with unforgiveness?
How many of us can truly say they meaningfully respond to that invitation with hearts clean
and pure?
As we contemplate the word of God today, in the light of the glory of heaven, let us allow the
concluding words from the first reading of today to echo in our hearts and so drive us towards
the path that leads to Christ: “Remember the end of your life, and cease from enmity, remember
destruction and death, and be true to the commandments. Remember the commandments, and
do not be angry with your neighbour; remember the covenant of the Most High, and overlook
ignorance” (Sirach 28:6-7).
Reflection By
Fr. Methuli Lanele Moyo