Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent

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.”

During the first days of Lent the readings at Mass advance the ancient Jewish penitential practices into our own time. Jesus and his disciples were familiar with fasting, prayer and almsgiving; the Church still assures us of their efficacy.
Deeper into Lent, prepared by these traditions, we may be more ready to undertake the real work: forgiveness, reconciliation and atonement with our fellow Christians.
Saint Paul warned us not to put too much stock in those pious practices: “If I give my body to be burned but have not love, I achieve nothing.” Fasting, prayer and almsgiving prepare us to make sacrifices but are not the important ones. So what do we do now?

Today we have heard Jesus’ shocking parable of the merciless servant. Forgiven a staggering debt, he could not bring himself to forgive the pittance he lent another fellow. In fact he treated him brutally. His colleagues and the master were horrified at his behavior. It was inhuman, alien and bizarre. This is not a story with a happy ending, nor does the Lord ask us to feel any sympathy for this creep.

This parable is like that Nathan told KIng David. When David rose up in righteous anger and condemned the wealthy fellow who had stolen a pauper's lamb when he might have used one of his own flock, Nathan pointed at him and said, "You are the man!" 

In this case, Jesus is looking at you and me. "You have been forgiven so much, and given so much more; and do you dare to refuse kindness to one of your own people?" 

Periodically, the Lord in his mercy lets us glimpse the Enormity of our sin. Thank goodness he doesn't do it very often; we couldn't go on about our daily lives if he did. But many of the saints have had the experience; it is scalding. Some have gazed into the fires of hell; some have felt the torture of Christ's flagellation; some were humiliated by their years in bondage to carnal sins. 

We don't have to wallow in artificial guilt about our own picayune sins but we should at least consider the absurd grudges we have carried and the resentments we have borne in the light of God's mercy. 

Carrying a resentment is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to get sick. It's not only ineffective, it's stupid. As one young friend told me years ago, "Build a bridge and get over it!" 

Take time to gaze on the face of Jesus or Mary, or upon Jesus' cross. Ponder its beauty and graciousness. Think about the promise of eternal happiness the Lord has given to us. 

My friend Father Howard, (God rest his soul) would say, "Quid est aeternitatem? What is that in eternity?"

We have so much to be grateful for; let's go with the flowing river of grace and forgive others as we have been forgiven.  

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.