Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day through the readings from the Sacred Scriptures we heard about the importance of forgiveness in our lives, by understanding why is it that as Christians we must be generous with our forgiveness and mercy, because God Himself has forgiven us and been generous to us with His blessings and graces despite our waywardness and regardless of our stubbornness in disobedience.
In the first reading today we heard about Azariah, one of the three companions of Daniel, who were four men of the descendants of Israel living in exile in Babylon, during those years when the people of God had been banished from their own land and brought into exile, living in shame and humiliation, as those who were defeated in war and vanquished, having no land to call their own.
The people of God had once lived prosperously in the land given to their ancestors, but they disobeyed God and refused to listen to Him. They abandoned Him for pagan idols and gods, and as a result, their enemies rose up against them and they were defeated and conquered. Their cities were destroyed, Jerusalem was in ruin and the Temple of God in that city was destroyed. Such was their humiliation at that time.
They had to endure scorn and ridicule from other nations and peoples, and as we heard in today’s first reading, it existed in the context of the time when king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon built up a great golden statue of himself, and ordered everyone to worship the statue. He wanted everyone to glorify him and to exalt him as if he was a god, and demanded the same from Azariah and his two other companions.
They were good and loyal servants of the king of Babylon, but they refused to obey the king in this matter. They refused to bow down to him and to perform things which was abhorrent and wicked in the sight of God as their ancestors had done. Instead, they faithfully stood by their faith in Him and were forced to endure great suffering in the chamber of fire. Azariah prayed to God from within that fire chamber, as we heard in our first reading today.
And God heard their prayers and saved them from the fire. They were untouched and unharmed by the fire, and the king of Babylon was amazed by the miraculous occurrence. This was a very good and concrete example of how God forgave His people and protected all those who have been faithful to Him. He did not hold grudge against them, but loved them dearly with all of His heart.
That is the essence of God’s great and undying love for us all, that even though we have often sinned against Him and disobeyed Him, but He did not allow His anger and the disgust He had for our sins to turn Him away completely from us. For He loves each and every one of us, His beloved people, who have been estranged from Him because of our sins and to whom He therefore wanted to be reconciled with.
That is why in the Gospel today, we heard of a similar story, of the parable through which Our Lord spoke about the unforgiving servant, who have been forgiven his debts, and yet, refused to forgive the debts that others had owed him. In that parable, we can see the parallel with our own story, and the story of our redemption and forgiveness by God.
The master who forgave the wicked servant represents God, Who forgives us all from our sins and mistakes because of His mercy. The servants of the master represent all of us mankind, who are God’s people. The debts that have existed between the servant and the master and between the servants are our sins. And by right, we have to pay all of our debts, or else we will have to face the punishment due for our debts, that is sin.
By default, that would have meant for us to be damned in hell fire. For the combined weight of our burden and sins are truly very great, all the wicked things we have done in our respective lives, in disobedience against God. But we see how God forgave us all our sins generously just as the master forgave the great debt owed by the servant who begged him to show him mercy.
Yet, that servant refused to forgive another servant who owed him much smaller amount of debt. The master who heard about how the servant treated his fellow servant became angry and threw the servant he had forgiven the debt into prison, to suffer the consequences for his debts as well as his refusal to follow his example in showing mercy and forgiveness for each other.
Now, let us ask ourselves, how many of us have been angry or holding grudges against our fellow brothers and sisters just because of what mistakes and problems they have caused to us? Let us not forget that we ourselves might have done the same to them or to someone else in other occasions or circumstances in our lives. And God has forgiven us for all these trespasses and sins we have committed, when we cause harm, hurt and inconvenience upon others, just as He has forgiven others for the sins they have committed towards us.
If God has forgiven us all our heavy and numerous sins which have merited us hell and eternity of suffering, by none other than His loving sacrifice on the cross, through which He died for our sake, that by redeeming us from our sins, all the debts of disobedience we owed Him, and forgiving us from those debts, all of us who accepted His love and mercy may receive eternal grace and life from Him. And remember that He died even for His enemies and those who hated Him, and He forgave all of them from His cross.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, thus it is imperative that during this Lenten season, as we continue to prepare ourselves for the coming of Holy Week and Easter, we must imitate the examples set by Our Lord Himself, in being more merciful and forgiving in our relationship with one another, showing more care, love and compassion for one another especially to those who are poor, unloved, lonely, depressed and all those without hope.
May the Lord be with us always, that He may continue to guide us in our journey of faith, that we may be able to love one another more and more, and be merciful in all of our actions, and thus grow to love God ever more, day after day. May the Lord bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.