The Cost of Mercy?

3.6.18  Tues.  Wk 3 – Lent  (II)
Daniel  3:  25,  34 – 43
Gospel  of  Matthew  18:  21 – 35

Then Peter approaching 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 his brother from his heart.”         The Gospel of the Lord.


Homily:  Fr. Mike Murphy                   The Cost of Mercy?

In Psalm 25, which was our Responsorial Psalm this morning, the Psalmist prays:

“Your ways O Lord, make known to me: teach me your paths.” (Ps.25:4)

Then the Psalmist goes on to describe the way of the Lord:

“It is the way of truth; He is our Savior – His is the way of salvation, the way of compassion

and His kindness is from of old.  The Lord is good and upright, He shows sinners the way.

Those who are humble are taught His way”.

All of these words describe the love and the mercy of God.  The way of the Lord is to forgive as we have been forgiven.

In the Gospel today, Peter has not yet learned the way of †Jesus.  He believes that forgiving someone seven times – is beyond being generous.  What a great heart Peter had!  Forgiving someone seven times a day does seem like a lot.  I mean, someone who needs that much mercy, that you have to forgive them seven times in a day – It doesn’t seem like they will ever change.  I want nothing to do with a person like that who hurts me that much every day.  Recall Alexander Pope’s famous words: “To err is human – to forgive is divine”.   How can we be expected to forgive someone multiple, times?  Someone who continues to hurt us.  I mean, after all, I’m only human, right?  Well keep in mind – †Jesus was fully human, yet He calls us to forgive seventy-seven times, just as He has forgiven us.  To follow the ‘Way of †Jesus’ is not to put limits on forgiveness; not to limit the mercy that we show to others.

God’s mercy toward each of us shows us the way.  We are to be merciful to others and our mercy must be infinite.  This unconditional mercy seems to go against our nature.  The parable today shows us how we usually respond to God’s mercy toward us.  We forget God’s mercy when someone hurts us and we are not ready to show mercy to them.  We have short memories.

In the Gospel story – the first servant, after his debt was written off – punished someone whose debt was a fraction of his own debt.  Isn’t this our story?   Mercy doesn’t come easy to us, particularly when we are hurt deeply.  It is why the Psalmist prays to the Lord to teach us the way of mercy, because it doesn’t seem to come naturally to us.  It is a grace!  And we should pray for that grace if we are holding a grudge – and we just can’t forgive a person.  (speaking directly to the students)  If there is someone in your class with whom you are angry, and you just can’t forgive them – pray for the grace.  “Lord, help me to forgive this person”.  Like everything in life, if we want to learn how to do something well, we have to work at it.  We have to practice it.

Now we might think: ‘in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter if I forgive my classmate, or I don’t show mercy to this person.  There are only one or two people in my life that are hard to forgive.  What difference does it make if I hold a grudge’?

Listen to these words of St. Augustine: “Sins that oppress and bury us – cannot be termed trifle.  What is more minute than drops of rain, yet they fill the rivers.  What is more minute than grains of wheat, yet they fill the barn” (excerpt from Sermon 205.1).  To hold back our mercy, to not forgive another person, can lead to sin unto death.

St. Paul wrote in his Letter to the Romans: “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ †Jesus”  (Rom. 6:23) The sacrifice of †Jesus on the cross was a free gift.  Look at the crucifix.  What do you see there?   You see the love, the pain, and death of †Jesus.  He did all that for us.

We read in the prophecy of Isaiah: “He was pierced for our offenses – crushed for our sins – upon Him was the chastisement that made us whole.  By His stripes we were healed.  We have gone astray like sheep, each following his own way.  But the Lord laid upon Him the guilt of all”. (Is.53:5-6)

The gift of salvation cost us absolutely nothing!  It was a gift of love from †Jesus to you!  What does showing mercy to another person cost us?  What does offering forgiveness to another person cost us?  Well, it may cost us our pride.  It may cost us – having that ability to control that person by hanging that sin or that hurt over their head and reminding them of it.  That’s all it will cost us.  These are nothing compared to nails tearing into the flesh of †Jesus hanging on the cross.

“Your ways, O Lord, make known to me.  Teach me your paths”. (Ps. 25:4)  Let this be our prayer for Lent.  Experience the loving, gentle mercy of God – which is being offered to you this weekend in a big way – “Our 24 Hours with †Jesus”.   Beginning at 5 o’clock on Friday afternoon until 5 o’clock on Saturday afternoon – there will be a priest in the Reconciliation Room for 24 hours – to offer God’s forgiveness to us; and it is not going to cost you anything.  Just come on in.  You can get behind the screen so you don’t even have to show your face.  It will cost us nothing!

Let us embrace the way of our Savior, the way of mercy and forgiveness.

“Our Father…forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. (Matt.5:9ff)

In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.