Wed, 16 August 2017
(Jos.3:7-11,13-17; Ps.114:1-6; Mt.18:21-19:1)
“My heavenly Father will treat you in exactly the same way
unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”
The forgiveness of sins and the crossing of the Jordan into the Promised Land is our theme today. Both are very much one and the same.
In our gospel Jesus tells the parable of the merciless servant in order to teach Peter and the apostles of the office of forgiveness which is theirs through his intercession. When one of a king’s officials is unable to pay his debt, he “prostrates himself” before the king and begs for time. “Moved with pity,” the master lets the official go and writes off the debt. (In just the same way the apostles are to forgive those who repent of their sins.) But the same servant who is forgiven then demonstrates no forgiveness to a fellow servant, demanding from him all that is owed and throwing him in jail. When the king gets wind of the servant’s lack of mercy, he removes the forgiveness of his debt and seeks to extract every penny from him. The parable illustrates Jesus’ central teaching: we must forgive to be forgiven. And it indicates the power of forgiveness Jesus, the King, gives to His apostles, the officials, the servants – evident in its being prompted by Peter’s question regarding forgiveness. The Lord reminds them (and us) of the forgiveness they have received from Him, and that they should carry this gift to others.
A metaphor of this power is presented in our first reading. Joshua, Moses’ successor, leads the people across the Jordan River into the Promised Land at the instruction of the Lord. Notice what causes the waters of the Jordan to “halt in a solid bank,” allowing the people to pass over on dry land (much as the previous generation had done at the Red Sea). The waters cease flowing “when the soles of the feet of the priests carrying the ark of the Lord… touch the water of the Jordan.” Much as Christ and His apostles stand in the breach interceding for the forgiveness of our sins and thus drawing us into the heavenly kingdom, so “the priests carrying the ark of the covenant of the Lord remained motionless on dry ground in the bed of the Jordan until the whole nation had completed the passage.” Of old the priests led by Joshua found their power of intercession in the ark of the covenant which held the Ten Commandments; today our priests, led by Peter, find their power of forgiveness in the cross of Christ.
Brothers and sisters, let us all forgive one another from the heart. Let us flee in fear like the “Jordan turned back” on its course the danger of holding a grudge or failing to share the blessings we have received from Jesus. Let us cross the Jordan to the Promised Land ourselves and serve to draw others into the heavenly kingdom. Let us not disappoint our Father and so know His wrath; let us shine His loving mercy forth till all have crossed on dry land.
O LORD, without forgiveness in our heart,
we shall never cross over into the Promised Land.
YHWH, how shall we pass into the Promised Land if you do not go with us; and how shall you go with us if we are burdened by sin? We need you to go before us, and we need your forgiveness, or we shall be left on the banks of the Jordan.
And how shall we be forgiven our sins and find your presence among us if we fail to forgive those who are indebted to us? O LORD, how can a man with a hardened heart come before you who are mercy itself? He has no place in your kingdom, and so the waters which would have cleansed him of his sins drown him instead.
Send us your priests, dear LORD, to lead us in your stead. May Peter be at the head of your people to bring them as has Joshua, as does Jesus, into your Promised Land. And may we thus be freed from sin that we might follow them.