Sunday, September 17, 2017

“You cannot conceive, nor can I, of the mercy of God.”

“I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.” ― Abraham Lincoln: (1809 – 1865: was an American politician and lawyer who served as the 16th President of the United States from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865)

Gospel Text: (MT 18:21-35)
Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
"Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive?
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 the fellow servant 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."

None of us finds it easy to forgive. Christians should be virtuosos of forgiveness because we know that God has been—and always will be—endlessly merciful to us. But sometimes we’re understandably reluctant to forgive because we know forgiveness is both challenging and risky. Forgiveness is challenging because in order to forgive we must be willing to move beyond the justifiable anger, hurt, and resentment we feel when we are unfairly treated by another. And forgiveness is notoriously risky because we can never be sure it will repair relationships that have been damaged by unkindness, carelessness, and thoughtlessness. What if our forgiveness is refused? Even worse, what if the people we forgive show little remorse, accept no responsibility, and do nothing to amend their behavior? No wonder it is sometimes easier to remain estranged than to be reconciled; easier to nurture anger and bitterness over love and forgiveness.

But nothing could be more self-destructive or hopeless. Forgiveness is seldom easy, but what is the alternative? Yes, what was done to us was wrong, unfair, and inexcusable—which is also true about how we sometimes treat others—but do we want our lives defined by anger, hurt, and bitterness? Is that how we want to be remembered? The message of this Sunday’s readings is unmistakably clear: Forgiveness really is a matter of life and death. As the late Passionist priest and renown scripture scholar, Carroll Stuhlmueller, wrote about these readings: “Not to forgive is like not breathing; it is that unnatural and inhuman.” Those are words to take to heart.

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