Daniel 3:25, 34-43 / Matthew 18:21-35
We can’t offer animal sacrifices: But we can offer a humble spirit.
A large truck got wedged in an underpass in a tiny western town. It couldn’t go forward or backward. Traffic was lined up for miles. Officials were at a loss at what to do. Finally, a little boy who’d been watching all the while said to one of the officials, “Want to know how to get the truck loose?” The official said in an irritated voice, “Yeah! I suppose you’ve got it all figured out.” “Well, I think so,” said the boy. “Just let a little air out of the truck’s tires.” The officials did, and it worked. Later, after the traffic began to move, the humbled official joked about the incident, saying, “The truck wasn’t the only one that got a little air taken out of its tires.”
How do we respond when someone lets a little air out of our tires and humbles us? Jesus said, “Learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit.” Matthew 11:29
Most of us have this experience of lending money to people. And most of the time, we end up so frustrated and feel like banging our heads against the wall. Because we lent the money so easily, but it came back to us with so much difficulty and so slowly, if ever at all. And of course, the higher the amount of money lent, the greater the frustration and the heart-ache.
So, when it comes to talking about forgiveness, Jesus did not talk in abstract terms. He used this experience of loans and payment. Immediately we will know what it means to forgive. It is almost synonymous to writing off a debt. But to be able to write off a debt, it means that we have come to the realization and enlightenment that there is something beyond money.
Only then can we let go and move on. Similarly, to forgive someone who had done us great harm and hurt us grievously, it means that we have come to the realization and enlightenment that there is something beyond the anger, the pain and the hate.
Let us pray for this realization and enlightenment. Because it is a special grace from God. It is His healing love that is being poured into our hearts.
FORGIVE US AS WE FORGIVE
We don’t like too much – or not at all – to acknowledge it, but we have been forgiven a lot. Open, scandalous, upsetting sins... maybe not. Probably not. But scandalous in the sense of totally unexpected on the part of people who profess to be the sign of the Church, of Christ, of God... perhaps yes: antipathies, non-sharing, animosities, enmities nurtured for years, living side-by-side without genuine love and sharing, maybe yes... and to many or at least some the opposite of witnessing to what we profess to be, yes... Where is our forgiving others as God has forgiven us, as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer?
-Do not take away your mercy from us, for the sake of Abraham, your beloved, Isaac your servant, and Israel your holy one, LHM
-For we are reduced, O Lord, beyond any other nation, brought low everywhere in the world this day because of our sins, CHM
-So let our sacrifice be in your presence today as we follow you unreservedly; for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame, LHM
Lord our God, we consider ourselves your chosen flock, the people who profess to be your sign of reconciliation. God, how poor we are! How often we fail you by forgiving by an act of condescension, as if we did a great favor to those who sought to be reconciled with us. Lord, help us to forgive the way and to the extent that you forgive us: unconditionally and totally, in the goodness of our hearts. Give us this greatness of heart through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The plea made by Azariah in the Book of Daniel, written in the second century before Christ, is full of pathos. The Jewish people have once again been subjected to ruthless invaders. Sacrifice is gone, leaving room only for an internal sacrifice of spirit. Sinfulness is recognized and forgiveness sought. Only one element is missing, one found repeatedly in New Testament requests for forgiveness. This added dimension is underscored in today’s Gospel parable. Forgiveness cannot be asked from God if we do not forgive others. And how often? “Seventy times seven,” which says forgiveness everywhere and always. Any minister of the gospel has met cases repeatedly. A very good person is approaching the end of life but needs to be reconciled with someone before the end. It may be a close family member or a childhood friend. But the sentiment is wholly in keeping with the Gospel teaching. It is expressed each time we recite the Lord’s Prayer as we ask for forgiveness in the measure to which we extend it. One hardly wants to think of the indictment involved in reciting this prayer while harboring hostility toward others. The fact is that we are all capable of hurting in word or deed. We can also find ourselves on the receiving end through the actions of others. When we are guilty, let us be quick to heal the breach. In so doing we are assured of God’s forgiveness in whatever circumstances. If Christ in his final sufferings can offer his prayer from the cross, “Father forgive them,” it is hard to imagine what excuse we might offer. The king in the parable forgives an indebted servant, canceling the debt entirely. But the same servant mistreats a fellow debtor, with no sense of compassion. Shylock still wants his “pound of flesh.” Yet as Portia says in the same Shakespearean drama: “The quality of mercy is not strained.” May those sentiments be our own.
Points to Ponder
To be forgiven and forgiving
Settling discord before prayer
– That we may be patient with one another, as God has been patient with us, we pray:
– That we may forgive one another, as God has forgiven us, we pray:
– That we may keep loving one another, as God keeps loving us even when we have repeatedly hurt his love, we pray:
Prayer over the Gifts
Merciful Father, we welcome your Son in these signs of bread and wine as the Lord of forgiveness who laid down his life for us. May we, whom you call your chosen ones, beloved and called to be holy, be found ready to forgive willingly, notwithstanding antipathies and hurt feelings, that we may be to one another the sign of your forgiveness which goes beyond our human feelings, as followers of Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Prayer after Communion
Lord, it is beautiful but hard to be the body of your Son, the sign of the forgiveness and life that he brings to the world. But give us the courage, notwithstanding and beyond our all too human feelings, sympathies and antipathies, to bring to all around us your message of love, tolerance, peace and joy, which you have given us here again through the body and blood of Jesus Christ our Lord.
We are people who have received forgiveness from the Lord, and, hopefully at times also from people. We should know also how to forgive, so that our praying in the Our Father may be truthful. May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.