Today’s readings bring to mind the lessons my mother frequently imparted during my childhood that I’m sure I’ll soon repeat to my young kids. Sayings like “honesty is the best policy” or “treat others the way you’d like to be treated” are cliches for a reason–they are worth repeating over and over again.
And as I look at the readings, I realize that these sayings aren’t just for kids. In the First Reading, the Israelites ask for God’s mercy. Tomorrow, we’ll hear how God asks them to follow His commandments. In the Psalm, we ask God to show us His mercy, but also to show us the path we should walk. And in the Gospel we hear the familiar story of the debtor who did not show mercy to someone who owed him money. When the debtor asked that his own debts be forgiven, his master reprimands him for not showing mercy and handed him over to the torturers. Then comes the clincher, Christ says “So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”
Yes, our God is a God of mercy, but He is also a God of Justice. We are called to forgive others, to show mercy when it is ours to give. When we don’t do so–when we are selfish, unforgiving and hold grudges–we signal to God that we don’t value the path He has shown to us. So yes, in some part, we treat others the way we’d like to be treated so that we avoid the very real fire of Hell. But also, we should try to show mercy because we have personally experienced the great mercy of God in our own lives.
When we strive, as the Israelites did, to affirm that “we follow you with our whole heart”, we will grow in the virtue of generosity to others–forgiving them “seventy-seven times” and loving with them with a Christ-like love.
Caitlin Bootsma is the Communications Director at Fuzati, a Catholic Marketing Agency