Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

poor-slave-owed-the-king

In a 2014 Vatican document, the International Theological Commission states, “The faithful have an instinct for the truth of the Gospel, which enable them to recognize and endorse authentic Christian doctrine and practice, and to reject what is false.

That supernatural instinct, intrinsically linked to the gift of faith received in the communion of the Church, is called the sensus fidei, and it enables Christians to fulfil their prophetic calling.”

We see a variation of this concept in the Gospel for the Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time. Jesus offers a parable which links forgiveness with mercy. A poor slave owed the King an exorbitant amount of money. Unable to repay, he pleaded for mercy and the King forgave his debt. This same slave encountered a fellow slave who owed him a small amount of money. When he pleaded for mercy, his fellow slave, the one who had been forgiven so much, had him thrown into debtor’s prison until he could pay.

We are told that “When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and reported to their lord all that had taken place.” They had a supernatural sense that this was not right. The King agreed and said to the slave, “Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?”

Here we find at the time of Jesus a less theologically developed concept of the sensus fidei. The people sensed that something was wrong. The slave had been shown great mercy; was he not compelled to show that same mercy to others? Sirach echoes these same sentiments in the First Reading: “If one has no mercy toward another like oneself, can one then seek pardon for one’s own sins?”

These Readings remind us that the essence of mercy is forgiveness. It is not easy to forgive another, especially if we are filled with anger and hatred. Sirach states: “Anger and wrath, these are abominations, yet a sinner holds on to them. The vengeful person will face the Lord’s vengeance.” Our “sensus fidei” should move us to a profound awareness of the fact that because we have received mercy we must show mercy.

“Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?”