“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.” ― Nelson Mandela: (1918 – 2013: was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician, and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999)
Gospel Text: (MT 18:21-35)
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.”
I think this is interesting. When we want and need mercy, we remind God that he is merciful. We want that mercy to be boundless, to cover all of our sins. On the other hand, when we think about dispensing mercy to others, more often then not we think like St. Peter in today’s gospel passage – how many times should I forgive my brother? Or, we think like the first man in the story who felt that his debtor did not deserve mercy.
Why would we need to remind God to be merciful? Are we afraid that he is like us? We certainly realize that we are not deserving of mercy, as if anyone could be. We cannot offer anything to earn it. Jesus, the face of God’s mercy, assures us that we do not have to give God reasons to be merciful; he is merciful. Do others have to give us reasons to be merciful? When his children gaze upon He who is Mercy, they realize that this is the only reason necessary for his children to show mercy to others. That is who our Father is. That is who we are called to be.