Powerful Mercy

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Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent


Matthew 18:21-35

Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “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. That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt. At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’ Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan. When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt. Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ 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.”


Opening Prayer: Oh my Jesus, this teaching can be difficult. I want to forgive endlessly, from my heart, but truly forgiving is hard. Lord, help me encounter your love and mercy in this Gospel reflection and then pour your love and mercy out to others. 


Encountering Christ:


  1. Imitating God’s Mercy: The theme for all the Mass readings today is mercy—God’s mercy towards us, and our mercy toward others. In the first reading, Azariah (Abednego) prayed to God in the midst of the fiery furnace, imploring God to “deal with us in your kindness and great mercy” (Daniel 3:42). He called upon God’s mercy and God delivered them from the fire. We are called to imitate God’s mercy with our brothers and sisters. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do” (Colossians 3:13).
  2. Powerful Mercy: St. Thomas Aquinas wrote about the power that is demonstrated in God’s mercy: “the justification of the ungodly…is greater than the creation of heaven and earth” (Summa Theologica  I-II.113.9). Imagine that God’s act of forgiving a person’s sins is even greater than the work of creation itself! In forgiving people for their sins, God shows that his love is more powerful than evil or sin. We do not have the power that God has to forgive others’ sins, but we do have the power to forgive the sins that have been committed against us. This is the power of mercy. It takes strength and grace to truly forgive someone from the heart. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and we can choose it, thereby imitating God’s powerful mercy.
  3. Restoration of Freedom: Forgiveness is also powerful in the way it frees and heals our own hearts. When we choose not to forgive someone, we enable that person to have an attachment to us. The sin against us that we cannot seem to forgive remains. We are being held captive by our anger and hurt. St. John Paul II said, “Forgiveness is the restoration of freedom to oneself; it is the key held in our own hand to our prison cell.” When we choose to forgive, be it seven times or seventy times seven times, we free the other person and ourselves from the pain of sin, anger, and hurt.


Conversing with Christ: Jesus, forgiving others can be difficult. Help me to trust in you when I need to forgive someone who has hurt me. When I find it difficult to forgive, give me your courage and help me to offer your mercy in place of mine and offer your words from the cross: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).


Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will choose to forgive someone who has hurt me.


For Further Reflection: For a short, personal reflection on forgiveness, read this post from Word, Life, Light: Choosing to Forgive. Or, if you have a little more time, listen to this podcast from Pints with Aquinas: How Do I Love and Forgive My Enemies?

Written by Carey Boyzuck

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