Readings: SIR 27:30—28:7; Psalm 103, R. (8) The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.; ROM 14:7-9; Gospel—MT 18:21-35
A basic principle we share in our formation programs for public school teachers is that one cannot give what one does not have.
I invite you to reflect on this in this Sunday’s parable of the wicked servant who could not forgive because he did not accept and appreciate the master’s forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a grace we all desire and pray for, and clearly it is a grace that has a dual action. One is forgiven as one forgives. But which comes first, being forgiven or forgiving?
In the parable, it is clear that being forgiven comes first. This seems to be the factual (on the surface) reality, but if we reflect deeper, the grace of forgiveness was not effective interiorly in the wicked servant.
This is evidenced by the fact that immediately after being forgiven, he lashed out at the poor servant. Clearly, he did not appreciate being forgiven because if he did, out of gratitude he would have given it freely to the poor servant.
Efficacy of grace
This we can say is the efficacy of grace. We must want it and ask for it, and we must say “yes” to it for its power to have its effect on us. This is part of the freedom God lovingly gives us.
St. Ignatius of Loyola gives us an insight into the process, that as we see and experience God’s love in our life, filled with gratitude we return love for love.
The same is true for the grace of forgiveness. Forgiveness is God’s love. His merciful and forgiving love on the Cross and in the Resurrection is his act of perfect love. It is his nature, his being to be perfect love, to be forgiving and merciful, embracing saints and sinners alike.
By not being forgiving, the wicked servant rejected the forgiveness of the master. Thus, it can be said that the grace of forgiveness becomes most effective when we ourselves forgive.
This brings us to an inner movement of the spirit. Forgiveness is a grace, an inner movement of God’s spirit that transforms us interiorly, our heart and soul, from which our ability to forgive comes.
This interior transformation can best be described by what St. Paul writes in his Letter to the Galatians (2:20): “… yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.”
This is the being of being forgiven and being forgiving. The deep sense of gratitude for this love that saved and saves us is accepting forgiveness and giving forgiveness. The two cannot be separated.
It is in gratitude that we truly accept forgiveness and are able to forgive.
The “key” then is the grace of gratitude. Gratitude is also premised on humility. One cannot be truly grateful if one is not humble.
“A heart humble and contrite, O God, you will not spurn.” (Psalm 51:19) A humbled and contrite heart is not so much a precondition for forgiveness, but a condition that makes us open our heart to the grace.
It is the same humble and contrite heart that rejoices in the grace of forgiveness, and “from the abundance of the heart” one forgives.
There is a “final” grace, the grace of healing. With forgiveness and gratitude we heal. We see this in the final “scenes” of the Gospel.
The wicked servant squanders the grace of forgiveness, thus the healing is not completed. Worse, he further inflicts wounds by being mean to the poor servant.
But there is justice. The other servants become a channel of this justice by pointing out the injustice to the master.
Then the master, who out of compassion forgives the wicked servant, takes the wicked servant to task. “You wicked servant!” He is meted out the punishment he earned. Yes, he earns his punishment. This is God’s justice.
So now the master and the other servants who saw injustice and acted to address it heal the situation.
Healing will take place in God’s time and in God’s love. We are all offered the grace, but we must accept it and allow it to transform us. As the Gospel ends, “Each of you forgives your brother and sister from the heart.” —CONTRIBUTED