Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I would like to share with you the story of Rachel. Rachel was a teacher in a class with children with severe learning and emotional difficulties in an inner-city school. Her most difficult charge was ten-year-old Kyle, the son of a drug-addicted mother, a boy with permanent scars along the side of his left arm from a beating with an extension cord when he was three. Kyle was given to angry, violent outbursts and to running away. Rachel had planned a field trip for her students. But because of his behavior issues, Kyle would remain at school. Kyle flew into a rage, screaming, cursing, spitting…and then he did what he always does…he ran away. He dashed out the door, straight into the heavy morning traffic…and Rachel ran after him. With no sense of what she would say or do once – and if – she caught up with him, she continued to chase after him. Finally exhausted after several blocks of running, Kyle stopped. He looked up and saw his teacher running toward him. He calmed down; his anger subsided. Rachel and Kyle locked eyes. Rachel willed every ounce of compassion and understanding in her heart toward him. That moment changed him. When Kyle returned to school several weeks later he was a changed student. He was glued to Rachel’s side and attempted to do all his work. But what made the difference? That was the question that Rachel posed to the school psychologist. The psychologist placed her hand on Rachel’s shoulder and said: “Rachel, no one ever ran after him before. No one. They always just let him go.” I think this is an example of divine love and compassion. God asks us to be like Rachel in forgiving and loving not biased. We heard in the Gospel Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. It means an unlimited forgiveness; unlimited compassion.
In the parable a debtor who owes his master ten thousand talents. Now a talent was an amount of money equal to one thousand denarii, and a denarius was a Roman silver coin equal to one day’s labor. Doing the arithmetic, the amount of the debt equaled ten million days wages. Did you notice that in the reading it tells us: “Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan?” What is striking is that the debtor didn’t ask for forgiveness, he asked only for time to pay it back. Was he nuts? He must have been! How could he possibly think he could pay back the huge obligation he owed his master? Setting aside the man’s psychiatric condition, let’s take a look at his spiritual state, which is, of course, what Jesus is talking about. We should also keep in mind that Jesus is talking about your spiritual condition as well as mine. All of Jesus’ parables are not about other people; they are about you and me. And the point? The debtor was concerned only about observing the dictates of the law. His arrogant self-righteousness remained. His focus was only on himself. There was no change in the debtor’s heart, only an attempt to manipulate laws, rules and regulations. Thus he was cruel to his fellow servant. The king then acts on behalf of the powerless. He exercises legal judgment and employs the law on behalf of the poor and powerless fellow servant. He applies the full force of the law against the debtor who owed him the ten thousand talents.
We need to see that God comes to us looking for change in our hearts, not simply a change in our ways of thinking and acting. Changing our ways are “externals”, not “internals.” It’s your heart that God wants. Jesus wants us to see that forgiveness is liberating, and it is the most liberating for the one doing the forgiving. Forgiveness allows us to walk in the freedom of the sons and daughters of God, not as children of the law. Forgiveness is not “selling out;” it’s not saying that what people have done to us is somehow “okay,” or that it does not matter. Forgiveness liberates us from the ways of this world; it takes us into the heart of God. To forgive is truly divine, and the presence of God is something we all desperately need in our lives, particularly in the days in which we presently live. Let us try to practice the divine compassion and forgiveness with our brothers and sister. If we don’t we can’t ask for God’s mercy which we all are in dire need of. That is what God tells us in the first reading. Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight. The vengeful will suffer the LORD’s vengeance, for he remembers their sins in detail. Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven. Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the LORD? Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself, can he seek pardon for his own sins? If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath, who will forgive his sins? Remember your last days, set enmity aside; remember death and decay, and cease from sin! Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor; remember the Most High’s covenant, and overlook faults. And so let us find freedom for ourselves in forgiving others.
God bless you,