Life can bring about many experiences that test our decision to be kind and merciful.
It can be a tough order to fill when we have been harmed.
The old “eye for an eye” ethical stance seems to be the knee-jerk reaction. Jesus warns us against this in the parable of the king who forgives a debt, only to have the debtor fail to forgive debt against him.
I am certain that everyone who is reading this has been injured in some way or another. The debt incurred can be a wide spectrum of possibilities. The response we choose is the test of character.
In the parable, the king is being kind and merciful when the debt of a servant comes due and he chooses to allow the debtors’ family and assets to remain with him if he promises to do better.
The sad part of the parable comes when the forgiven man demands the payment of a debt owed to him without mercy.
The King was “moved with pity,” yet when the forgiven official had a chance to carry on the example of the king, he failed miserably.
The servant is brought before the king and is demanded to pay in full the original debt.
How many times in our lives do we conveniently conceal our debt to accuse another of their own?
Pointing out the sins of others makes it easier to feel better about myself. After all, if I do that I certainly am a more noble and holy person. I can rest better at night knowing that I am not like them. I may have “little” sins but certainly not like them.
Jesus is the king, and we are the forgiven servant. The next question is, how do we respond when we see our brothers and sisters who have fallen?
Do we ask for a full payment without the mercy that was shown to us? Or do we show pity and mercy following the king’s example?
We also forget that others are watching us and our response. We can be the king too, by displaying the pity and mercy to others.
How we react and the example we give as mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, professors, students, clergy and laity shows the deep commitment to respond to the gospel of love.
We listen to the readings and yet we don’t respond; we preach the message, yet when the test comes, we miss the mark like the servant.
If when we pray the “Our Father” and we listen to those sacred words, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” and do not live it because we are fearful of what others may view, be assured the king will require our debt in full be paid.
The matter of this week’s gospel is not a matter of convenient forgiveness. The gospel speaks to those very times that it is difficult and painful.
There was no asterisk beside this sentence in the prayer our dear Lord gave us.
You cannot look at the bottom of the Bible and see the exceptions to forgiveness. You can look at the cross and see the price of forgiveness.
You and I will travel through this life and meet many people. We will be injured by people, and we will injure people on our way.
The call to holiness is not one that requires perfection; it requires a good honest effort. Part of that effort is in forgiving ourselves for our sins, forgiving others for the sins, and then humbly preparing our hearts for the next step – asking our Lord for his forgiveness.
I have never forgotten the gospel message heard this week, and the church ties all the readings and response together so neatly.
The connection between Sirach and the gospel and Paul’s call to develop our love in a deeper relationship with Christ with the psalmist’s cry for help and mercy will strike to the core of the reason he died for us.
The message this week is clear: “The Lord is kind and merciful; slow to anger, and rich in compassion.”
A wonderful way to live.