Seventy-seven times!

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Gospel is about forgiveness. It shows us that although God is always ready to forgive us, we are not always willing to forgive others.

When Peter asked Jesus, if it was sufficient to forgive someone for seven times, he most probably expected to be praised for his mercy and generosity. Instead, Jesus asks for much more than this and uses the parable of the king and the unforgiving servant to illustrate the matter. The generosity and mercy of the king is shown in forgiving the incredibly enormous debt of his servant, the amount was so huge that it was impossible for the servant to repay. However, when this same servant meets with a friend who owed him a much smaller and incomparable amount of money, instead of remembering the mercy shown to him, he shows no clemency.

On hearing this parable, one wonders how the servant could behave like that, after the king had forgiven his massive debt. We can however, put ourselves instead of the servant. Was there any time when we needed to be forgiven? What were our thoughts? Most probably we had a thousand reasons ready to justify our forgiveness.

Was there anytime when we were hurt by someone’s behaviour? Were we ready to forgive this person? Peter was generous indeed when he offered to forgive the same person seven times!

Is it easier for us to find the reasons why we should be forgiven, than reasons why we should forgive someone else?

God’s ways are different. He is ready to forgive us, always, irrespectively of our sin. If we show that we are sorry, if we repent, God forgives us. Like the king, God expects that we forgive others seventy-seven times. Jesus’ reply to Peter, shows that there should not be a limit to the amount of times that we forgive a person. God wants us to forgive ourselves and to forgive others. If we do not do this, it is not God who does not forgive us, but it is ourselves who cannot accept the fact that God has in fact forgiven us. We must forgive, in the same way God forgives us. This is an integral part of Christian living. We realise that the condition imposed for our forgiveness is not imposed by God, but it is something which is self-inflicted. Are we ready to repent and accept God’s forgiveness? Are we ready, to forgive those who have sinned against us, the same way that God forgives? 

As to reconciliation, there must be a willingness from both parties. There is a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. There can be forgiveness without reconciliation. To be reconciled with God, I must repent, I need to convert and change my way of living. To be reconciled with those who have hurt me, I need to be ready to forgive; the other person has to be sorry and tries to make amends where possible, or vice versa if it was I who wronged someone. Forgiveness comes from the injured party; reconciliation needs action from both sides.

When we forgive, it does not mean that I have accepted wrong behaviour or injustices. We need to be able to forgive. But we cannot condone that which is wrong. The king was ready to forgive the servant, but the servant was not ready to repent, and his behaviour with his fellow servant, is proof to this.

A reading from the Gospel of Matthew (Mt 18, 21-35)

Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?” 

Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.  Since 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.  At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’ Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan. 

When 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.’ Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he refused.  Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison until he paid back the debt. 

Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair.  His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!  I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.  Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. 
So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.

The Gospel of the Lord
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ

  1. Read the Gospel story so that you are familiar with it.
  2. Reflect on what the Gospel story is saying to you. Which points would you highlight and why?
  3. Is there something you need forgiveness for, but because of pride and arrogance you are not saying that you are sorry? Pray that God gives you the humility you need to ask to be forgiven.
  4. Is there someone, or more persons, who need your forgiveness, but you are finding it difficult to show mercy? Write this person’s name (or names) down and ask God to give you the courage and strength to forgive. 
  5. Listen to Forgiveness.
  6. Together with your family find the right time to read this gospel. The environment helps, so before you start, prepare:
    a) The Bible reading from St Matthew (18, 21-35)
    b) A lit candle
    c) Cover the table with green cloth
    d) A computer/laptop with the reading and clips
  7. Go through the steps with your children (2 age groups are being suggested).
  8. Feel free to adapt to your situation.
  9. Be creative 😊
  10. Go to the Prayer Spaces section to continue praying as a family.

Jesus wants us to know that God always forgives us.

We will learn that when we do something which is wrong, Jesus wants us to be sorry and ask to be forgiven.

We need:

  • A picture
  • Needle and thread
  • Glue
  • Scotch tape

A note to parents: Let us remember that at this age, children do not yet understand that they may affect others with their behaviour. When they need to forgive, we ought to help them remember various situations in which they were forgiven. We should also try to evoke the feelings they had in such situations. They cannot yet understand that God forgives them. They will learn about forgiveness from our actions. If we do not forgive the way God does, they will not be able to understand that God will forgive them.

Today, Jesus is going to speak about forgiveness.

Look at this picture. Is it beautiful? (tear the picture in two)

Is it still beautiful?

What can I do, so that the picture is beautiful once again? (show the children, the needle and thread, the glue and tape, so that they can choose what to use to mend the picture)

It feels good to look at a beautiful picture, and it also feels good to look at two who are friends. But sometimes friends quarrel. Do you ever quarrel with your friends, or with your brothers and sisters? When we fight we are no longer friends as before and we will not be happy.

We mended the picture using the tape and it is now beautiful once again. Can we do something so that we become friends again? (we say that we are sorry and we do not fight again)

When we fight or when we do something wrong, such as lying, God is not happy. God does not like it when we choose to do something wrong, such as fighting, lying, taking things which are not ours. Can you mention other things which we sometimes do, and which will make God unhappy?  (give the children enough time to reply)

When we say that we are sorry, God is pleased and he forgives us. God also forgets the wrong which we did! It is not only God who forgives us, but the person whom we wronged, will forgive us as well, if we ask him. You know that God knows everything! So when we say that we are sorry, we really have to mean it! When we are forgiven, we are happy once again.

Today’s Gospel was about a king who forgave his servant, but in turn, the servant did not want to forgive his friend. God is like the king, he forgives us. At times we behave like the servant. Let us see this story, which is very similar to the one Jesus told.

Sign of the cross.

We listen to The forgiveness song.

Thank you Jesus for loving me and forgiving me. There are times when I get angry and find it difficult to forgive others. There are other times when I find it difficult to say that I am sorry. Jesus please help me to become more like you.

Jesus, I am sorry for… (everyone mentions what he/she would like to ask forgiveness for).

Today, Jesus is going to speak about forgiveness. When we are sorry, God always forgives us.

We will learn that:

  • God always forgives us
  • We also need to forgive others when they are sorry

We need:

  • Hearts for all those present, cut out from red paper (or any other colour available)
  • Pencils
  • Colours

A note to parents: children will believe that God forgives them and that God is merciful, if those who are closest to them, show them mercy and forgive them. God’s forgiveness has no strings attached. God does not set forth conditions for us to receive his forgiveness. Neither should we put conditions on our forgiveness; for example: ‘I will forgive you, but first you have to tidy up your room’. Although there should be consequences for bad behaviour, forgiveness should not be conditional. God’s forgiveness is given without conditions attached. Like the king’s forgiveness mentioned in the Gospel, God’s forgiveness is extremely generous. Nevertheless, if we choose not to forgive each other or if we are not genuinely sorry for our misdeeds, we would be closing the door to God’s forgiveness. We need to teach our children that forgiveness does not mean that one lets others do what they want. Forgiveness does not entail the acceptance of bullying and abuse. One may forgive a person, but his wrong actions are liable to punishment just the same.

Peter knew that it was not easy to forgive others. He thought that Jesus would agree with him, that it was enough to forgive seven times. Do you remember what Jesus replied? (he was to forgive seventy-seven times)

Do you think that Jesus wants us to stay counting the number of times we forgive someone? (Jesus chose this big number, to show us that like God, we should always forgive others)

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells a story. Do you remember it? (let the children retell the parable, helping where necessary)

Who do you think the king in this story is meant to be? (God)

And the servant? (myself / us)

God is very merciful, when we are sorry, he always forgives us. This clip will show us how much God is ready to forgive us. The judge is like the king in the Gospel, and the thief, the servant, The judge and his friend. Similarly to the servant, we find it difficult to forgive. When we forgive as God forgives, we do not simply utter a few words: ‘Ok, I forgive you’. We need to forget about the bad action which we suffered, and not bring it up every now and then. When we need to say that we are sorry, we do not just say ‘sorry’, we need to really mean it and try to make good those things we did wrongly. 

Try and think about these different situations:

  • When you were forgiven
  • When someone said sorry and said that they would not do it again, but you found it difficult to forgive
  • When someone said sorry, tried to change and you forgave them.

How did you feel in these different situations? In today’s activity, everyone is to take a heart. On one side, write: Jesus loves me and forgives me. The children may colour and decorate it if they wish. On the other side, everyone writes that sin which he/she keeps repeating over and over again. Fold the heart in two and keep it (in a secret place, if they wish). Every night and even during the day, pray to Jesus so that through his help you may stop and overcome this sin. When you manage to overcome it, you may tear up the heart. You may do another one if you wish. In such a way, we can slowly become better persons. Those who wish to do so, may share what they wrote, with others. Sometimes, it is difficult to overcome a bad habit, alone by one’s own forces. It is easier to do so with the help of others. So, if for example, someone lies a lot, parents can help by pointing out when he lies. This should be done with love and patience. If there are consequences to be paid, the child should face them just the same. Telling the truth does not necessarily exempt someone from the punishment due. Yet, it is important that we always seek to educate the children in a caring way, never in anger or lack of patience.

Sign of the cross.

Dear Jesus, we are sorry for our bad choices. Please forgive us and help us to forgive others too.

Jesus, please forgive me for when…. (everyone continues the prayer for forgiveness, as they wish).

Thank you Jesus, for your love and forgiveness.

Listen to You forgive me.

How to use this space

God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Sunday Scripture readings. Here you will find useful background and activities to better understand the upcoming Sunday's Scripture readings, helping you to connect the Scripture to daily life in a meaningful way.