Tuesday, March 21, 2017 - 3rd Week of Lent - Tues[Dan 3:25, 34-43 and Matt 18:21-35]
"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." [Matthew]
The parable of the Unforgiving Servant is the gospel scripture that I use for the second night of a parish mission. The focus that night is on forgiveness and reconciliation. What makes this parable particularly important in my opinion is that it echoes a petition in "the Lord's Prayer:" "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." I consider what the Master says when he learns that a servant, whose huge debt he wrote off as an act of mercy, refused that same mercy to a fellow servant who owed him (the first servant) a very small debt: "You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt beause you begged me to Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant as I had pity on you?" Further, if one goes to the Sermon on the Mount at Matthew 6:9-15, one notices that the Lord's Prayer, as we usually pray it, ends at verse 13, but Jesus' words continue in vv. 14-15: "If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions."
The approach that I take for the "examination of conscience" focuses on the person and not the particular act. It is a list of people in our lives whom we should forgive or from whom we should ask forgiveness. It includes God, self, family, co-workers and even that one person who has hurt me the most. The common attitude that all we need to do is to "go to confession" and the sin disappears leaves the task half undone, as the parable shows. Do we share the same mercy we have received in that sacrament with others?
Forgiveness is always in our power. Reconciliation is harder because it requires more than more person and, in some circumstances, may not be possible. But we can always forgive and ask for forgiveness. Coming to terms with this challenge from Jesus is one of the most difficult things we can do as a Christian. Lent is a good time to face it and make it a rule in our lives. AMEN