Scripture: Daniel3,2,11-20; Resp. Psalm: Ps25,4-9; Gosp. Accl.: Joel2,12-13; Gospel: Mt18,21-35
Do not give us up; do not abandon your covenant; do not withdraw your mercy from us. Do not allow the enemy and our own actions and inactions depopulate and reduce our numbers as a nation. Forgive us our sins and accept us back whenever we return to you with a contrite heart and a humbled spirit. Let the humility of our hearts and the contrition of our souls be acceptable before you like burnt offerings of rams and bulls. Deliver us and give glory to your holy name, O Lord.
This is the cry of Daniel in today's first reading. That cry expresses faith in the limitlessness of God's mercy and compassion. It expresses faith in the goodness of Yahweh who takes back and forgives the errant sinner from the heart. It places trust and confidence in God who is compassionate, upright and merciful toward the sinner.
The utter limitlessness and gratuitous nature of God's compassion is the theme of our Lord's parable in today's gospel. Peter asked how long he must forgive a brother who offended him. Peter quoted the prescriptions of the Mosaic law in this regard. Our Lord in response told Peter that forgiveness must know no boundaries, limits and counts. Forgiveness is endless.
Our Lord told Peter that when God forgives, He forgives everything; when God forgives, He does not take note of the gravity of the offence; when God forgives, He is "prodigal" and "wasteful" with His mercy. Our Lord in this parable compares this attitude of His Father to our own lack of forgiveness.
God forgives us always the great, horrible sins we commit, yet we find it difficult to forgive our neighbours the infinitesimally insignificant sins they commit against us. We want to profit from the same action whose enjoyment we have prevented others from having. We want to go to equity with soiled and unclean hands.
The words of our Lord today should send shivers down our spines: " 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me; and should you not have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?' And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt. So also my Heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."
Lent is about return to the embrace of the Father. Lent is about asking for forgiveness from our Father whose heart we have grieved as a result of our sinful and lawless lives. Lent is about forgiving our neighbours for the wrong they did us. Lent is about the limitlessness of that forgiveness. When we find it difficult to practise this teaching, Lent gives us the opportunity to fall on our knees and ask God for the strength and courage to do it. Let us do that today. Alone we can do nothing. With Him, we can do all things.
Let us pray: "May your grace not forsake us, O Lord, we pray, but make us dedicated to your holy service and at all times obtain for us your help." Amen.
May the Living Word of God find a true dwelling place within our hearts and souls today and always. Rev. Fr. Anthony Igbekele