'It is true that God promises forgiveness if we repent, but what assurance have we of obtaining it tomorrow?' - St Louis de Blois
Gospel text (Mt 18,21-35): Peter asked Jesus, «Lord, how many times must I forgive the offenses of my brother or sister? Seven times?». Jesus answered, «No, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. »This story throws light on the kingdom of heaven. A king decided to settle the accounts of his servants. Among the first was one who owed him ten thousand gold coins. As the man could not repay the debt, the king commanded that he be sold as a slave with his wife, children and all his goods in payment. The official threw himself at the feet of the king and said, ‘Give me time, and I will pay you back everything’. The king took pity on him and not only set him free but even canceled his debt. »This official then left the king's presence and he met one of his companions who owed him a hundred pieces of silver. He grabbed him by the neck and almost strangled him, shouting, ‘Pay me what you owe me!’. His companion threw himself at his feet and asked him, ‘Give me time, and I will pay everything’. The other did not agree, but sent him to prison until he had paid all his debt. His companions saw what happened. They were indignant and so they went and reported everything to their lord. Then the lord summoned his official and said, ‘Wicked servant, I forgave you all that you owed when you begged me to do so. Weren't you bound to have pity on your companion as I had pity on you?’. The lord was now angry, so he handed his servant over to be punished, until he had paid his whole debt». Jesus added, «So will my heavenly Father do with you unless each of you sincerely forgive your brother or sister».
Have you ever watched a squirrel trying to get into a “squirrel proof” bird feeder? He will tenaciously try anything to get at the birdseed, even if there are easy food options nearby. This illogical persistence is comical, but it’s also maddening for anyone who has to replace the broken bird feeder.
Sin can make humans do illogical things, too. And that is nowhere more clear than in the parable Jesus tells in today’s Gospel reading. Here we see the unmerciful servant behaving in a very selfish and irrational way. He begs for mercy and is forgiven his huge debt, only to go out of his way to demand that someone else pay him back a very small debt. He treats this borrower harshly and shows none of the mercy that he has just received. Wouldn’t it be easier just to forgive this fellow instead of spending all the effort having him thrown in jail and punished?
As we sit comfortably at a distance, we can wonder what this debtor was thinking and why he was so dense. But if we had been in the midst of that scenario, could we be so sure of ourselves?
Sometimes cycles of affliction and injury are hard to stop. We get hurt, then we hurt others, and then they hurt others, etc. This type of “an eye for an eye” behavior must stop. This seems to be a supernatural quest, which is not so easily achieved on our own terms. While we may know that “love does not brood over injury” (1 Cor. 13:5), practicing that kind of love is asking quite a lot, when the hurt is real and we do not feel fine at all.
In the end, God’s mercy is always selfless. He always meets the illogic of our sins with the logic of his love. Instead of brooding over our injuries and our neighbor’s faults, perhaps we should consider spending the time in prayer as well as opening ourselves up to the grace of the Sacraments (frequent reception of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation). God can help us, through his grace, to perform this supernatural work if we let him.
Scripture reminds us that his mercies are “renewed each morning” (Lamentations 3:23).
God is constantly forgiving us and extending his mercy to us. I suspect we will be astonished at the results if we try. So ask for his help, trust in his love, and know that your heart can be changed!