Mar 17 2020 Reflection
Tuesday 17 March 2020
First Reading: DN 3:25, 34-43
Remember your mercies, O Lord.
PS 25:4-5AB, 6 AND 7BC, 8-9
Gospel Reading: MT 18:21-35
Today’s Note: Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent
Peter approached Jesus and 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 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.”
Who doesn’t have debts they need to pay off! And who wouldn’t be grateful to have someone release them from their debts? But can we really expect mercy and pardon when we owe someone a great deal? When the people of Israel sinned and rebelled against God, God left them to their own devices until they repented and cried out to him for mercy. The Book of Daniel in the Old Testament recounts the story of Daniel and his three young friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, who were sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. When the King of Babylon threw Daniel’s three friends into the fiery furnace, they cried out to God to have mercy not only on themselves, but to have mercy upon all his people. “Do not put us to shame, but deal with us in your forbearance and in your abundant mercy” (Daniel 3:19-43).
The prophet Jeremiah reminds us that God’s “mercies never come to an end – they are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23). God gives grace to the humble and he shows mercy to those who turn to him for healing and pardon.
We owe God a debt we could never repay
God’s mercy towards each one of us shows us the way that God wants each one of us to be merciful towards one another. When Peter posed the question of forgiveness and showing mercy to one’s neighbor, he characteristically offered an answer he thought Jesus would be pleased with. Why not forgive your neighbor seven times! How unthinkable for Jesus to counter with the proposition that one must forgive seventy times that. Jesus made it clear that there is no reckonable limit to mercy and pardon. And he drove the lesson home with a parable about two very different kinds of debts. The first man owed an enormous sum of money – millions in our currency. In Jesus’ time this amount was greater than the total revenue of a province – more than it would cost to ransom a king! The man who was forgiven such an incredible debt could not, however bring himself to forgive his neighbor a very small debt which was about one- hundred-thousandth of his own debt. The contrast could not have been greater!
Jesus paid the price in full for our guilt and condemnation
Paul the Apostle tells us that “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). There is no way we could repay God the debt we owed him because of our sins and offenses. Only his mercy and pardon could free us from such a debt. There is no offense our neighbor can do to us that can compare with our debt to God! If God has forgiven each of us our own debt, which was very great, we, too must forgive others the debt they owe us.
Jesus ransomed us from slavery to sin and eternal death
Through Jesus’ atoning sacrifice for our sins on the cross, we have been forgiven a debt beyond all reckoning. It cost God his very own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to ransom us with the price of his blood. Jesus paid the price for us and won for us pardon for our sins and freedom from slavery to our unruly desires and sinful habits. God in his mercy offers us the grace and help of his Holy Spirit so we can love as he loves, pardon as he pardons, and treat others with the same mercy and kindness which he has shown to us.
True peace with God
God has made his peace with us. Have you made your peace with God? If you believe and accept God’s love and and pardon for you, then you likewise must choose to be merciful towards those who are in debt to you. Are you ready to forgive and to make peace with your neighbor as God has made peace with you?
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred let me sow love. Where there is injury let me sow pardon. Where there is doubt let me sow faith. Where there is despair let me give hope. Where there is darkness let me give light. Where there is sadness let me give joy.” (Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi, 1181-1226)