Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Gospel Reflection Mathew 18:21-35

In the Lord’s Prayer we say “..forgives our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us…’ Today’s Gospel reading gives us a glimpse of how seriously God takes these words we say. The parable of the unforgiving servant is meant to show that we must forgive others if we hope to have forgiveness. That is, a lack of forgiveness on our part is sinful and takes us away from God.

The unforgiving servant received mercy beyond measure. Further, he received mercy simply by the good graces of the king. There was nothing to be gained by the king in such an action. There was nothing good about the servant that merited his debts to be forgiven. The king gave the servant his entire life back when it was duly owed. 

So, what does the servant do in return? He exhibits extreme ingratitude, hubris, and a complete lack of moral fiber. He shows that he is completely unchanged by the grace he has received, now acting as if he was entitled to have his debts forgiven by the king and is in the position of now collecting. He ignores the pattern of merciful action installed by the king. Thus, the unforgiving servant effectively puts himself in the place of the king. 

Whenever we try to put ourselves in the place of the King, we commit a profound error. This error is immeasurably compounded when we purpose within ourselves to spite the King and storm the throne. The consequences are disastrous. 

The command of Jesus to forgive others as God forgives is only possible through the grace of God. This is especially the case when we are grievously wounded by our fellow man. Some people suffer such hurt and pain that only God can understand it, and only God can help them through the process, aided by our prayers and love. May we always stand ready to love others who are hurt, never presuming nor putting ourselves in the place of God. 

Now, let us think for a moment about those smaller debts others incur to us, the insults, slights, agitations, petty thefts, and so forth. These are much closer to the tiny debt owed to the unforgiving servant. What is our attitude toward others in these cases? Do we try to take the place of God and decide they are not worth forgiving? What if they did not apologize to us? What if they will not admit wronging us? For each of these thoughts we harbor, I am willing to bet we have wronged others twice as many times. We are very biased moral scorekeepers. I think this is one reason why the Lord Jesus is so firm in His warning us away from the activity. “Opt out of the unwinnable game altogether,” He says to us. When it comes to how…we need to ask Him. We need to look to the examples He has given us through His own life and the lives of the saints. God does ask us for the impossible if we rely on and trust completely in ourselves. But nothing is impossible for Him and with Him. 

Lord Jesus, please forgive us for the times we have not forgiven others. Give us a heart like yours to offer forgiveness to others, no matter how badly we are hurt by them. Give us the discernment and strength to seek forgiveness when we hurt others. 

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