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September 13, 1996     The Message
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September 13, 1996

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3, 1996 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana 9 Commentary-- iveness and reintegration: A parable on forgiving Gospel Commentary for September 15, 1996: 7venty- unday: Ordinary Time: Cycle A: Matthew 18:21-35 The concern of last week's gospel was the separation of unre- pentant offenders from the Christ- ian community. Several steps were outlined for the correction of offenders. First, they were to be approached privately by one indi- vidual who felt the offense. If this attempt was unsuccessful, two or three more fellow Christians joined in the attempt to bring about recon- !ii By FATHER DON DILGER COLUMNIST ciliation. If this small group failed, the matter was to the attention of the assembled Christian community. If offenders refused correction and rec- onciliation by the whole community, they were to be treated as "Gentiles and tax collectors." This sounds overly excluding unless one recalls that these rules were written for a community con- sisting mostly of Christian Jews• They were steeped in a.tradition of exclusivism toward Gentiles, i.e. non-Jews• As to being treated as tax collectors, to Christian Jews as to most Jews the tax collector was a fellow Jew who preyed upon his own people to collect taxes for the Roman imperial government occupying and ruling their country• Therefore tax collectors were considered Jewish society's outcasts to be avoided by respectable people. Despite Jesus' association with such people and the concern voiced in parts of various gospels for accep- tance of tax collectors into the Christian community, traditional behavior was not easy to overcome. The exclusion and avoidance of Gentiles was based on Old Testa- ment texts even though the out- reach to Gentiles is just as strongly affirmed in parts of the Old Testa- ment. Thus when sinners are exclud- ed from the Christian community as if they were Gentiles and tax collec- tors, is this exclusion to be only for a certain length of time or forever? This is the question taken up in today's gospel reading. Peter asks Jesus: "How many times must I forgive an offending brother? Seven times?" Jesus replies: "Not seven times, but seventy-seven times." To do a good act seven times, seven being the perfect number, was considered perfection. Not enough, says Jesus. The "seventy- seven times" symbolizes forgiveness without limit• An offender is always to be readmitted to the Church after repentance. Matthew has taken the blood vengeance themes of Genesis 4:15, 24 and reversed them for his Christian community. In Genesis 4:15 Yahweh is portrayed s savfng to Cain, who was afraid of someone avenging his murder of his own brother Abel: "If anyone slays Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold." And in Genesis 4:24 the patriarch Lamech says: "If Cain is avenged seven times, then indeed Lamech will be avenged seven- ty-seven times." Both references imply tribal revenge, the revenge of a community upon an offender. It shall not be so in the Christian commu- nity. There is no community revenge among Chris- tians, only correction and reintegration following repentance• The brief dialogue between Jesus and Peter is now followed by a parable about a man whose king forgives him a debt so huge that it could never have been repaid• The man who has just been forgiven meets a fellow official who owes him a small amount of money. He treats him cruelly and has him put into debtor's prison. This was all reported to the king. He called in the man who had owed the huge debt and had just been forgiven. He reinstated the debt and put the man into prison until he would repay every bit of it. By adding this parable Matthew has moved from community forgiveness to personal forgive- ness. To forgive is obligatory, not only for the Church, but also for the individual Christian. The lesson seems to be that it is dangerous not to for- give one who asks forgiveness. A Christian who does not forgive those who offend him, will in turn not find forgiveness. The parable closes with these words: "So will my heavenly Father do to every one of you, if you do not forgive another from your heart•" And so we pray with some anxiety the peti- tion of the Our Father: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." Readings: Sirach 27:30-28:9: Romans 14:7.9. SCHNELLVILLE FOR COMPLETE ELECTRICAL SERVICE HER ELECTRIC INC. SCHNELLVILLE, IN 389-2418 Washington Auto Trim 27 Years Service i UNITED SOUTHWEST BANK • MEMBER OLD NA]]ONAL B&NCORP SHOALS-LOOGOOTEE T F S Tra00or Serv00e, Inc. Box 68 • Montgomery, Indiana 47558 Donald J. Traylor President Phone: 486-3285 ii AUTO TOPS. SEAT COVERS • BOAT COVERS STEREO SALES 8, INSTALLATIONS 254-3943 HWY 50 EAST, BEHIND UPS CENTER EUGENE WELP, OWNER ST. JOSEPH C,, \\;-] -HOLIC C :_METERV AND MAUSOLEUM Since 1871 The Catholic Church surrounds the sacred rites with the most beautiful of prayers and the most consoling of anointings and blessings. Therefore, it is most fitting that the bodily remains of our loved ones, made sacred by the sacraments, should be placed in peaceful surroundings. St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery 2500 Mesker Park Dr. • Evansville, IN 47720 Phone (812) 423-1356 " 11  , ,.45  Golden Jubilarians Norbert and Mercedes (Sehenk) Speilmeyer St. of Jasper will celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary with a Mass of Thanksgiving at 11 a.m. Sept. 22 at St. Joseph Church, Jasper. A dinner for the immediate family and invited guests will follow at the Knights of Columbus Home in Jasper. An Open House for relatives and friends will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. at the K of C Home. The couple requests no gifts. They were married Sept. 24, 1946, at St. Philip Church, St. Philip, by Father Charles Kaiser. They are the parents of eight children: James Spellmeyer, David Spellmeyer, Robert Spellmeyer, Norb Spellmeyer Jr., and Mary Jane Luebbehusen, all of Jasper, Donald Spellmeyer of Gentryville, and Carol MedeHin of Cincinnati.. Their son, Thomas Spellmeyer, is deceased. They have 19 grandchil- dren, Mrs. Spellmeyer is a homemaker. Mr. Spellmeyer worked for Krempp Lumber Company for 40 years; he retired in 1986 as construction manager. I