Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture that remind us the importance of mercy and forgiveness in our lives. First of all, in the first reading taken from the Book of the prophet Daniel, we heard of the prayer of Azariah, who was one of the three friends and compatriots of Daniel. And then in the Gospel passage, we heard of the Lord Jesus telling the people of the parable of the unforgiving servant.
These two readings are related, in how God wanted us to see how He has shown us His rich mercy and forgiveness, all these while, despite of all of our refusal to obey Him, our stubbornness and obstinate attitude, in continuing to live our lives in defiance of His will, and in continuing to do what is wicked and evil in our daily lives, in our every actions, words and deeds. This is why God is so gracious and generous in extending His merciful love to us, that despite all of these, He is still so forgiving and loving.
In the first reading today, as mentioned, Azariah prayed to God together with his other two friends, who were together condemned with him to perish in the great furnace that king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had commissioned to burn to death all those who refused to worship the great golden statue that the king had commissioned in his own image. While everyone else submitted to the king’s will and worshipped the golden statue, Azariah and his two friends refused to betray their faith in God by worshipping the golden idol.
King Nebuchadnezzar became angry and threw them into the fire after hearing their confession of faith, but Azariah and his friends remained firm in their faith in God. Not even the threat of pain, suffering or death could cause them to abandon or betray their Lord and Master, He Who is far above all worldly kings and their false aspirations of majesty and glory. Thus they prayed to the Lord as we heard in our first reading passage today, asking for His intervention, providence and mercy.
They humbled themselves before God, presenting themselves as the remnants as they were, of a nation and country humbled and scattered because of the sins and wickedness they have committed, in the days of their ancestors and predecessors. They showed the contrition of their people, and asking God to have mercy on them, for otherwise they would have been wiped out, all those who still remained faithful to God.
And God saved them from the fire, as the fire did not harm them at all. The king of Babylon was amazed at what he has witnessed, and was so impressed that he immediately tore down the golden statue of his own image that he has built in shame. This is just one of the many proofs of God’s wonderful love and rich mercy for His people, that He will not abandon them to destruction even when they have sinned against Him.
What we all often overlook is the fact that God does not despise us sinners. He loves each and every one of us because after all, He created us because of the love He has for each one of us. If not for His love, He would not have created us in the first place, or that He would have immediately struck us down and destroyed us the moment we disobeyed or sinned against Him. He did not do that, and in fact, He gave us opportunities, again and again, to be reconciled to Him and to be forgiven our sins.
That is what we have also heard in our Gospel passage today, as the Lord Jesus used a parable to bring forth this important point on forgiveness and mercy, in telling the story of a servant who was forgiven by his master for a large amount of debt he owed the master, and yet, refused to forgive a fellow servant who just owed him a much smaller amount of debt. At that time, ten thousand pieces of gold meant a lot of money, and was far more valuable than the hundred pieces of silver that the other servant owed the unforgiving servant.
The master became very angry at the unforgiving servant, and threw him into jail and revoked the pardon he had given to the servant earlier for his large amount of debt, simply because, he had not done as what the master had done for him. The unforgiving servant refused to forgive a small amount of debt owed to him when the master had forgiven him a far larger amount of debt earlier on.
This is an important reminder to each and every one of us especially in this penitential season of Lent, when we are called to seek God’s forgiveness and mercy, reconciliation by the forgiveness of our sins and true repentance. The master in Jesus’ parable represents the Lord, Our God Himself, while the servants represent each and every one of us. And the debts owed by the servants represent our sins. Sins came about because of the disobedience and evil acts we have done, or good things we have not done, both towards God and towards our fellow men.
And as mentioned earlier, God was so loving and merciful towards us, that even though we have disobeyed Him and refused to listen to Him, and despite of our great and unimaginable amount of sins, He ultimately still loves each and every one of us, for He despised our sins, and not us the sinners. This was why in the parable, the master, representing God, has pity and showed mercy even to the servant who had a lot of debt to him. This shows us all that God will forgive us all, whether our sins be great or small.
No one is out of the range and reach of God’s ever available mercy, as long as we are sincere in our repentance and desire to turn away from those sins. But this is where today, through what we have heard in the parable, we are all reminded of the need for us to forgive just as we have been forgiven. It is often difficult for us to forgive, as hatred, jealousy and anger often find their way into our weak and vulnerable minds and hearts.
But unless we forgive the sins of those who have caused us hurt and to suffer, we cannot be truly forgiven, as the parable of the Lord showed us. The unforgiving servant was ultimately not forgiven from his debts, because he refused to forgive another servant who owed him much less than what he himself owed his master. We must remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, that no matter how painful is the suffering and pains that others have done to us, all these are truly nothing compared to the pain and suffering we have caused the Lord.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect then on the Passion and suffering of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. He willingly bore the unimaginably heavy burden of our sins, the combined weight of sin of all mankind, with Him as He bore the cross down the path of suffering to Calvary. In all of this, He bore it willingly and out of love for each one of us. As He look down upon us from the cross, He has only mercy in His loving Heart, intended for us, His wayward children.
If God is willing and able of endure such pains and sufferings to remove from us our sins, then why is it that we cannot let go of even small slights and insults, pains and sufferings that our fellow brethren had done to us? Every single wounds on the body of Christ, after all, are every single sins we have committed, whether it be small or significant sin. Sin is still sin, and God is willing and capable of forgiving us from our every sins. Now, are we able to forgive those who have sinned against us?
Let us make this our Lenten commitment, and in fact not just during Lent, but from this moment onwards, to forgive one another our sins and mistakes, our deeds and words that have brought about hurt and injury on those whom we have encountered in our lives. May the Lord forgive us all our sins, we unworthy sinners, just as we have forgiven our brothers and sisters, our sins and trespasses against each other. Amen.