Mercy is the Option

Mercy is the Option

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]

September 13, 2020

Matthew 18:21-35

Last Sunday, the Gospel spoke about the fraternal correction. If a brother has offended us, we are obliged to offer charitable correction. This Sunday, the Gospel tells us what to do if a person who has received a correction, is repenting and asking for forgiveness. The answer is simple: we forgive him, and we embrace him back into the communion.

Simon Peter, the spokesperson of the disciples, is trying to impress his Master. He offers that he is willing to forgive up to seven times. Simon Peter wants to show Jesus that he is also capable of having a high standard. To his surprise, Jesus is not impressed, and in fact, teaches the disciples another great lesson about justice, mercy and forgiveness.

This time, Jesus pulls out His favorite method: telling a parable, and we will appreciate the parable if we are able to recognize the historical context and its surprise. A servant owes 10,000 talents to a king. In Jesus’ time, talent is a precious gold coin, and it equals to 6,000 denarii. One denarius itself is equivalent to a wage of one day labor. Thus, this servant owes 60,000,000 days of work to His Master [or around 160,000 years of work!]. Yes, despite the unthinkably fantastic amount of debt, the king easily forgives and erases the entire debt when the servant begs for mercy. This king’s attitude is even more insane!

Therefore, when the king receives the news that this forgiven servant refuses to forgive another fellow servant with infinitely smaller debt [100 denarii], his anger is justifiable, and expectedly, his mercy turns to justice.

Reflecting this parable, we understand that before the Lord God, we are no different from this servant. We deserve nothing from the Lord except one thing: hell! Sin has destroyed our relationship with God, and we created an infinitely bottomless pit. Finite as we are, nothing we can do to close the infinite gap. Only the infinitely powerful God possesses the ability to build the impossible bridge. Fortunately, Jesus has assured us that His Father is also the Mercy Himself. Though we deserve nothing but hell, God has opened the gate of Paradise to us.

Since nobody can earn God’s mercy, His mercy is always free, but it does not mean it is cheap. God wants us to do something also to receive His mercy. He expects us to be merciful. If He forgives us, then we need to forgive those who have hurt us. Jesus Himself reminds us that we should be merciful as our Father in heaven is merciful [Luk 6:36]. Being merciful is not an option. In fact, it is the justice that will be applied to us in the final judgment.

We know that to forgive is tough, but again we may learn from Jesus how to forgive. At the cross, He said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing [Luk 23:34].” The first step is to pray for those people who have offended us. By praying often, we train our heart to let go of our anger and bitterness, and even to learn to love the way God loves even those people who wish Him not to exist at all.

Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno

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