March 1, 2016

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.’
Matthew 18: 23-26

I'm pausing here, with the first half of the parable, because there's already something very wrong with this servant's outlook. "I will pay you back in full"--can he? The debt he owes is equal in cost to the servant, his entire family, and all of his property. I believe the king might even know this is an impossible promise, because in the next verse he forgives him the loan in its entirety.

If this is indeed a loan that might never be paid back, there is a disconnect between the servant's outlook on his circumstances and reality. A big one. It helps explain what he does next (turn on his fellow servant and punish him for a much smaller debt), and it's a telling psychological portrait of the sinner. The sinner must admit that he has sinned. That he wants to repent. And that he is in need of something--God's mercy. This servant jumps immediately to trying to fix the problem himself, without help. The king, out of pity, cuts him a break anyway.

I highlight this particular element of the story because if we do not acknowledge that we are in need of God's mercy, not only are we going to be harsher in our dealings with other people, but we are also going to run into a brick wall in our spiritual growth. If I make myself my own judge, jury, and executioner, I will only run around in circles and be miserable. I have an objective set of standards to follow--the law of the Church. I have a concrete path to absolution--the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And I have a Savior and Redeemer who holds the world in the palm of His hand. In short, God has given us many instruments and paths to prevent faith and morals from becoming a closed circuit (as Erin pointed out in her reflection a few weeks ago). It is a mistake to think we can "fix ourselves." Just as the king probably thought the servant ridiculous for his suggestion, how often must Jesus look with pity on those who refuse His merciful hand?

"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling!" (Mt. 23:37)


Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, pray for us, that we may learn to rejoice always in the Lord's mercy!

Frassati NY