Opening Question: After the words “I love you,” why are the words “I’m sorry” and I forgive you” the most important words we have?
First Reading: Sirach 27:30-28:9
Joshua, son of Sirach, was troubled by all the nasty comments he heard from his students. “The Syrians are evil. They rule us like we were their pet dogs,” one whispered. “Yeah, they hate us. We should hate them too!” said another. “We should strike back at them. After all, anything that happens to them is their fault,” a third person chimed in.
“Enough!” the teacher said. “When you talk of hatred and vengeance, you have no place for God!” Then he read from the text book.
Read Sirach 27:30-28:9
“Listen to what God says,” Joshua said. “I know it is easier to hate and let your feelings control you. It is much harder to listen to God’s word. ‘Don’t hate and forgive.’ But this is God’s will!”
Why hating someone so easy and forgiveness so hard?
Bridging Question: Has anyone asked to borrow money from you? How do you know he or she will pay you back?
Gospel: Matthew 18:21-35
Peter approached Jesus with a question. “Lord,” Peter asked, “how many times should I forgive someone if he keeps hurting me? Up to seven times?”
“Not up to seven times,” Jesus answered “but always. Because you never stop forgiving, the kingdom of heaven is like this story.
A king wanted to know how much his officials owed him. When he began to gather his officials’ bills together, the guards brought in one official who owed the king a huge fortune. Since the official could not pay him back, the king ordered the official, his wife, children, and everything the official owned sold to pay back the debt.
The official threw himself on the ground before the king. “Be patient with me!” the official begged the king. “I will pay you back everything!” The king felt so sorry for the official, he forgave the debt and let the official go free.
After that official left, he ran into another official who owed him pocket change. He grabbed and choked the other official. “Pay back what you owe me!” the official screamed.
The other official threw himself on the ground. “Be patient with me!” he pleaded. “I will pay you back everything!” But the official refused. He had the man who owed him pocket change thrown in jail until that man could repay the debt.
When the king’s other officials saw what happened, they got really upset. They went to the king and told him everything. The king called the official in. “You evil man!” the king said. “I forgave your debt because you begged me. Shouldn’t you be kind to that other official, like I was kind to you?” In anger, the king ordered the official to be punished in jail until he repaid everything he owed.
“Just like the king in this story,” Jesus said, “my heavenly Father will treat you the same way unless you forgive others from your heart.”
Jackie and Alice were sisters. Jackie was the older sister, the responsible one. She always cleaned her room, knew where everything was, and organized playtime. Jackie was very serious.
Alice was the younger sister, the one without a care. Her room was a mess, she constantly lost things in her messy room, and she stopped her chores to play at a moment’s notice. Alice giggled a a lot. Sometimes too much.
When Alice could not find what she wanted in her room, she would “borrow” it from others, especially Jackie. When Jackie found something missing from her room, she would ask Alice, “Did you take it?”
“Yes,” Alice would answer, as if she didn’t care.
“Do you know were it is?” Jackie would ask.
“No,” Alice would answer shrugging her shoulders.
Jackie got so angry over “borrowed” things, she would complain to her mother. Her mother would take both girls into Alice’s room and made Alice her clean. Many times, Jackie found things of hers that she didn’t even know were missing. Embarrassed before her mother, Alice would apologize and promised never to “borrow” anything from Jackie unless she asked first. Alice never asked first, of course, and everyone knew it. The room cleaning, the embarrassment, and the apology happened over and over and over.
One day, Jackie was doing homework when her pen ran out of ink. Since no one was at home, she decided to “borrow” a pen from Alice. When Alice got home and sat down to work on her homework, she couldn’t find the pen she just knew she left on her desk. After she roamed around the house, Alice finally went into Jackie’s room and asked, “Did you see my pen?”
“Yeah,” Jackie answered, “I’m using it for my homework.”
“How dare you enter my room!” Alice exploded. “Give it back now!”
“When I get done,” Jackie said, shrugging her shoulders just like Alice did when she was asked if she “borrowed” Jackie’s things.
The girl’s mother opened the front door and heard the argument upstairs. She ran upstairs to find a fight she never thought she would see. Alice was angry at Jackie for “borrowing” a cheap pen.
“Give the pen back, Jackie,” her mother said in a low voice. The girls knew their mom meant business and the argument was over. Silently, Jackie gave the pen to Alice.
Then, their mother turned to Alice. “How many times have you borrowed something from Jackie, only to lose it in your room? How many times have we accepted your apology when you found it? I’ve lost count. But, now, you throw a fit because Jackie took your pen? It’s just a cheap pen! Couldn’t you learn from your own mistakes and forgive your sister?”
Sometimes we’ve like Alice. We take and take. But, when we are wronged, we find forgiveness very hard. Sometimes we’ve like Jackie. We give and give. But when someone takes and takes from us, and they hurt us, we find it hard to forgive. When Jesus told the story of the forgiving king and the stingy official, he had one message. No matter what you’ve done, forgive others.
We’ve hurt others, our parents, our families, our friends. And they’ve forgiven us. They’ve hurt us. Jesus wants us to remember that we’ve been forgiven. We should forgive others.
Closing Question: What feels better, to forgive or to be forgiven? Why?