LECTIO DIVINA: XXIV Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

The Unforgiving Servant - Matthew 18:21-35
The Unforgiving Servant - Matthew 18:21-35

Translated by Fray Huberto Dunstan Decena, OAR

Mt. 18:21-35.

A. Invoking the Holy Spirit.

We invoke the Holy Spirit using the words of St. Augustine.

Come, Holy Spirit, by whom every devout soul, who believes in Christ, is sanctified to become a citizen of the City of God! (en. Ps. 45:8) Come, Holy Spirit, grant that we receive the motions of God, put in us your flame, enlighten us and raise us up to God. (s. 128,4) Amen.

B. Lectio.

With heart well disposed, with serenity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing yourself to be touched by them.

Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord. if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? 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 him 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 torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”

C. Meditatio.

Let us now meditate with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to St. Matthew.

 “He proposed this parable, therefore, to instruct us and with that warning he wanted to avoid that we perish. He says, So will my heavenly Father also do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart. See, brothers, that the thing is clear; the warning is useful, and we ought to render a truly healthy obedience that ends up in fulfilling what is commanded. In fact, as every man is a debtor before God, he also has his brother as debtor. For, who is there who is not a debtor before God, except him in whom no sin can be found? On the other hand, who does not have his brother as debtor, except one against whom no one has sinned? Do you think that someone among men can be found who is not indebted to his brother for some sin committed against him? Therefore, every man is a debtor, and also has someone as debtor. For this, God who is just has fixed a norm on how you are to act towards your debtor: the same way he acts towards his debtor. There are two works of mercy that free us. The Lord exposed it briefly in the Gospel: Forgive and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you. Forgive and you will be forgiven inculcates pardon; give and it shall be given to you inculcates the assurance of grace. As regards to what he says about forgiveness not only do you want that your sin be forgiven, but also that you have someone to forgive. For its part as regards assurance of grace, a beggar asks from you and you are a beggar before God. So when we pray, we are all beggars before God; we are at the door of the Father of the family; moreover, we prostrate and groan as suppliants, wanting to receive something, and this is God himself. What does the beggar ask from you? Bread. And what do you ask from God but Christ who says: I am the living bread come down from heaven? You want to be forgiven? Forgive: Forgive and you shall be forgiven. You want to receive? Give and it shall be given to you” (s. 83, 2).

D. Oratio.

With the text, let us now pray from the depths of our heart. I suggest the following phrases and questions that can awaken in you dialogue with God, and at the same time can give rise to affections and sentiments in your dialogue with God. Do not move to the next phrase or question if you can still continue dialoguing with God in one of them. It is not a matter of exhausting the list, but of helping you to pray with some points that better fit your personal experience.

a. “Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan” (Mt. 18:27).

  • What experience do you have of God’s mercy?
  • Why is God’s mercy necessary in your life?

b. “There are two works of mercy that set us free. The Lord briefly exposes them in the Gospel: Forgive and you shall be forgiven; give and it shall be given to you” (s. 83, 2).

  • How do you live the work of mercy?
  • What connection is there between forgiveness and the works of charity?

c. Pray with the phrase: “Lord, help me to forgive as you have forgiven me.”

E. Contemplatio.

I propose to you some points for affective interior contemplation. Once again you need not follow all of it, rather you can choose what fits your personal experience.

a. Contemplate how God enters you heart and makes you see your own sins and faults. Similarly contemplate that there are near you some persons who hurt you and have offended you some time. Contemplate how God wants to erase and remove all your sins, but he asks you to let go all rancor and resentments. Ask God the strength to enter your heart, and allow that he be the one to free you from all hatred and resentments. Contemplate how his powerful hand pulls them out one by one from your heart. Experience peace and serenity, and thank God that he has freed you and at the same time enabled you to receive his mercy and forgiveness.

b. Contemplate the parable we have heard. You are the servant who owes a large sum. Feel the compassion that your master had for you so as to forgive your loan. Contemplate now how you leave the presence of your master, and you meet someone who had offended you. Contemplate how you generously offer him forgiveness and, on forgiving him, experience how in your interior you are freed of a weight and a load. Experience peace and serenity, and ask God to help you to free yourself of resentments so that you can live reconciled with God and with your brothers. 

F. Communicatio.

Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God, especially about being forgiven by God and being able to forgive our brothers. The following points can help you to share with your community the experience of the lectio divina on this text.

  • What have I discovered about God and about myself in this moment of prayer?
  • How can I apply this text of Scripture at this moment of my life? What light does it give me? What challenges does it put before me?
  • What concrete commitment does this text of Scripture ask of me in my spiritual life, in my community life?
  • What has been my dominant sentiment during this moment of prayer?

Final Prayer of St. Augustine.

Turning towards the Lord: Lord God, Father Almighty, with pure heart, as far as our littleness permits, allow us to give you our most devoted and sincere thanks, begging with all our strength from your particular goodness, that you deign to hear our petitions according to your goodwill, that by your power you may drive away the enemy from all our thoughts and actions; that you increase our faith, govern our mind and give us spiritual thoughts and bring us to your happiness, through your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who with you lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen (en. Ps. 150:8).

“Proclaim that God is merciful and that he wants to forgive the sins of those who confess” (s. 259, 3).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Fray Dunstan Huberto Decena, OAR

Fray Hubert Dunstan Decena, OAR

Priest/Religious/Bible Professor of the Order of Augustinian Recollects in the Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno.

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