Readings Ezekiel 12:1-12; Matthew 18:21-19:1
I don’t think that the first debtor in today’s parable realizes that he’s been forgiven. My suspicion is that he only understands that his strategy was successful. Perhaps he’s the sort of individual who feels he shouldn’t have to suffer the consequences of his choices.
I say this because he takes such offense at someone indebted to him for so much less: he doesn’t recognize his own experience in his fellow servant. He is not realizing that he’s as fallible and forgivable as the rest of us. Welcome to the human race!
This raises serious questions about justice and forgiveness particularly relevant to the latest data on clerical sexual abuse in the American Catholic Church. Because of the Statute of Limitations, the facts that have finally been allowed to emerge may never come to trial.
I’m not talking about vindictiveness and retribution–they could never un-make a crime or cancel damage. I’m not even considering basic honesty, which is always important.
I’m referring to accountability before God and neighbor, the backbone of the Book of Deuteronomy and amply illustrated by the Gospels. I’m referring to responsibility for deeds done, resulting in compunction and conversion, the core of Jesus’ proclamation of the coming Kingdom; and not only the conversion of criminals but of the faith community’s administrative structures, conversion from privileged self-protection and defensiveness. And that is part and parcel of the teaching of St. Paul and the narrative of the Acts of the Apostles.
From today’s Gospel, I’m invoking the necessity of the hard work of forgiveness, without which the miracle of healing can never occur.