Today’s gospel is a sort of harsh look at what should be the least harsh subject, forgiveness. It brings up the difficulties in forgiveness – that it can be hard to do. We are supposed to forgive others like God forgives us, but we are still human and have human emotions and motivations.
On 60 Minutes this week, they interviewed a mob hit man. He’d killed at least twenty people in cold blood, but he kept up his Catholic faith. The interviewer asked him how he could reconcile that. The hit man said he went to confession and confessed his mob activities. He said his penance was ten Hail Marys, ten Our Fathers, and don’t do it again. (He got jail time too, reduced because he was an informant.) And he said he hadn’t done it since and has no plans to do it again. I think that penance sounds a little light, but then am I like the servant in the Gospel? I haven’t murdered one person, let alone twenty plus, but if I had, wouldn’t I hope for forgiveness? And being given it, should I resent anyone else being given forgiveness?
Our servant in the Gospel owes a huge debt, impossible to repay in an instant. His master is justified in turning him over to the authorities, but the servant begs for more time, swears he will pay the debt when he’s able, and the master forgives him the debt. This man must be enormously relieved and quite happy. I’m sure this problem had been hanging over his head, clouding all his activities. But now he is frantic to get the money to his master and he duns people who owe him money (and my thought on this is that if he is so in debt himself, why is he loaning money he obviously can’t spare to someone else?). But when his fellow servant begs for more time (as he himself did recently) this man has no mercy. His own master gave him more time, but he sends his fellow servant to the authorities for the return of his money. When the master learned that his lesson of mercy did not continue, he rescinded it. Why should he extend mercy to someone who was not willing to do the same?
Rather than being resentful or judgmental about the mob man’s forgiveness, and perhaps blocking my own possibility of forgiveness, I should feel heartened and hopeful that my own lesser transgressions might be forgiven as well.
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