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Lenten Reflection: Day 22
Gospel, Matthew 18:21-35
Peter ‘the rock’ is one of the most intriguing figure; not only in Christianity but I think also for those Jews belonging to the ‘Christo-Judeo’ era (when Jesus walked the earth). Intriguing to the Christians because his personality represents the character of the Church (the people). The character that symbolizes strength of faith but at times is weary, filled with hope but at times doubtful, filled with love but at times resentful, rich in wisdom but at times ignorant. Intriguing to the Christo-Judeo era Jews because inspite of being a spiritual and practicing Jew; which means to understand and live The Law, Simon Peter was courageous and open enough to approach the ‘new Law’ of loving the neighbour as we love ourselves (in Peter’s case – loving his archenemy Matthew the tax collector). This attitude was not very easy to express within the watchful eyes of the Pharisees and Scribes. This very Peter who became ‘The Rock’ upon which we the Holy Apostolic Catholic Church has been erected to soar unto heaven, has caused great wisdom to be given by Christ to us, by asking “Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me?”
God has enduring love for all creation (Ps 136:4-6). In the Old Testament God assures Moses that He is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” The very nature of God’s mercy is to be compassionate and loving. Love is the cause of the God creating the world, and love is the cause for God sending His own, only, begotten Son Jesus Christ, as an unblemished sacrificial lamb for the remission of sin. This ‘agape’ (supernatural love), also causes man to love the other person by looking at that person as an image of God just as he himself is one. In agape, we need not perceive the beauty of the neighbour whom we embrace in our love, for we know in faith that he deserves our love, even though this lovableness can be totally hidden from our sight. When he kissed a leper, St. Francis of Assisi was kissing Christ in him. Such a heart is filled with mercy, only because the one who forgives compassionately and lovingly has himself experienced the sweetness and serenity of God’s merciful judgement in the life on earth.
In today’s Gospel, a common aspect of human nature is evident, which is to be eager and most ready to plead for unconditional mercy upon self, but be judgemental and revengeful while showing mercy to others. Christ’s answer to Peter is heaven’s benchmark of mercy for people of the world. He tells him that man should forgive as many times as the petitioner asks for forgiveness with a contrite heart. At the time of our judgement by God, every human is responsible to give an account of his / her deeds, without the aid of a counsel. And God, who is the eternal judge, whose judgement is righteous and just, will be seated upon the throne of ‘mercy’ to judge the soul. Therefore His judgement which will surely be charitable, compassionate, wise and just, is expected to be our way of judging those who offend us or are liable to us.
My friends, if love is what we seek in our lives from God, then He desires us to love others like He loves us. If prosperity is what we pray for, then God expects us to be charitable to the needy. If unrelenting forgiveness is what we seek from God, then He expects us to be unconditionally merciful to our transgressors. Christ eloquently echoes this desire of His Father as He prayed, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Therefore, let us always be remindful, that when the lamp of our life runs out of oil, the flame can only be re-ignited to shine bright for eternity, only by God’s merciful judgement. So, may God’s will of forgiveness and mercy be done here on earth ‘as it is in heaven’.