A Study in Contrasts
Today's readings offer us a study in contrasts. They show us two ways in which we might live our lives and respond to those around us. They also invite us to choose the way God lays out for us, the way of mercy, forgiveness, and love.
The first reading draws a portrait of a sinner. Such a person holds on tightly to wrath and anger. He refuses mercy to his neighbor and lives a life of hatred and vengeance. He does not have access to the forgiveness of God because his heart is not open enough to receive it. In contrast, the person who forgives his neighbor's wrongs, who freely extends mercy, who keeps the proper perspective on life and remembers that it will come to an end, who recalls God's commandments and covenant, that person will receive God's forgiveness and healing.
Which person are you?
The second reading reminds us that some people try to live only for themselves, but this is not the way of Christians. We live for the Lord, and we die for the Lord. In life and in death, we belong to Christ.
Do you live for the Lord, or do you live for yourself?
The Gospel presents Jesus' parable of the unforgiving servant. The king is extremely merciful to his servant. The servant is deeply in debt to his master and under the threat of being sold, along with his family and property, to pay back the huge amount he owes. He falls before the king and begs him to have patience. The king is moved by his plea. With great compassion, he forgives the servant his entire debt. He wipes it away. It is gone forever. The servant is a free man who owes nothing. The king has given him far more than he asked for, far more than he had ever hoped to receive.
One would expect the servant to do the same. He does not. Just after leaving the king, he meets a fellow servant who owes him a small amount of money. He grabs the man and starts to choke him, demanding that he repay his debt immediately. His fellow servant begs him to have patience. He refuses and sends his fellow servant to prison.
Do you behave more like the king or the servant?
We know what happens to the servant. The king hears of his cruelty, rebukes him sharply, and hands him over to the torturers until he pays back his entire debt.
Jesus ends with a remark that should make all of us stop and think: “So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from your heart.”
Mercy or judgment? Life or death?
A study in contrasts...