Third Week of Lent
1st Reading: Dn 3:25, 34-43
Azariah stood up in the fire and prayed aloud: “For your name’s sake, O Lord, do not deliver us up forever, or make void your covenant. Do not take away your mercy from us, for the sake of Abraham, your beloved, Isaac your servant, and Israel your holy one, To whom you promised to multiply their offspring like the stars of heaven, or the sand on the shore of the sea. For we are reduced, O Lord, beyond any other nation, brought low everywhere in the world this day because of our sins. We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader, no burnt offering, sacrifice, oblation, or incense, no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you. But with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received; As though it were burnt offerings of rams and bullocks, or thousands of fat lambs, So let our sacrifice be in your presence today as we follow you unreservedly; for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame. And now we follow you with our whole heart, we fear you and we pray to you. Do not let us be put to shame, but deal with us in your kindness and great mercy. Deliver us by your wonders, and bring glory to your name, O Lord.”
Gospel: Mt 18:21-35
Peter approached Jesus and 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 your brother from your heart.”
Forgiveness!: God does not desire that we suffer misfortunes. He is full of mercy and kindness. It is founded on this desire that God wishes that we forgive. Forgiveness stops us from getting carried away in bitterness and subsequent anguish. That is why he talks of forgiving seventy times seventy-seven times. “No man is born unto himself alone: who lives unto himself, he lives to none”, said Francis Quarles. There is no other way to maintain the quiet rhythm of our world than having forgiveness. Human beings are bound to fail, falter and fall short of expectations. One should show generosity and a broad mind, full of forgiveness. Take advantage of the time that you have the interaction, and forgive. The opportunity will not be there forever. So, let each of us do our best to make the world brighter than before, through the practice of forgiveness.
Prayer: Lord of heaven and earth, make me be kind and understanding to difficult people.
MERCY AND JUSTICE OF GOD: Mercy and justice are twin virtues that stem from the same spirit but stand on opposite sides when it comes to resulting action. They both pursue righteousness, but their methods differ. Justice sees right and wrong as scales that need to be balanced – reward and punishment as deserved. Mercy acknowledges justice, but allows the spirit of forgiveness to prevail. Our God is both just and merciful, which may be a bit difficult to grasp at first – until we realize that they are not opposing forces at all. Mercy is justice with compassion. God shows us mercy without measure. Lent is a time of repentance. But forgiveness is not confined to the confessional. It should be given as freely as it is received from our merciful God. Our sinfulness far outweighs his goodness in the scales of justice, yet he tips the balance with love. Would you do the same? We can never pay him back for his mercy, but we can always pay it forward. We can only see and appreciate the mercy of God when we give it out in kind. We know forgiveness when we forgive!