Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Passages from the Bible are not always easy to interpret or understand. That is NOT the challenge for this Sunday’s readings! They are as clear cut as it gets. Even the prophet Sirach takes the direct approach – if you stew in anger and vengeance, you can’t expect anything other from God.
The clearest Bible passages are often the toughest ones because they cause us to reflect on some of the biggest challenges we face as people and there is no question what they are saying or the consequences we face if we choose to disregard them. Their call to something higher is as clear as it gets. There’s the challenge – they call us to something higher. That’s a tough pill to swallow living in a world that constantly pulls us to what is easy or what feels good. “You’re ONLY human! You can’t be expected to let anger go or to always forgive those who wrong you! It’s unrealistic!” And to some degree…the world is right. On your own, it is unrealistic. But we aren’t on our own. We are helped by a God who made us for more and who loves us, even when we are ONLY human.
Look at the Gospel reading for Sunday. Jesus tells a parable about a king who has compassion on his servant and forgives a very large debt instead of selling all the man has to collect what is owed. The servant then turns around and forcefully tries to collect a much smaller debt from one of his peers. When the king finds out, he throws the first man in prison until he pays what he originally owed.
The king in this story, by removing the crushing debt over his servant, made it easier for the man to forgive those who owed him. You can argue, “A king has a ton of money and didn’t need to collect on his debt! The servant was poor and probably needed the money!” and you’d probably be right. But by forgiving the debt (meaning he did not owe it anymore), the king made it easier for the man to be better.
In much the same way, God forgives us of our sins and takes our burden from us. In turn, we are HELPED to a higher level, we are shown the way, and we can help elevate others by forgiving as God does. It doesn’t make it easy. Our fallen nature makes even the thought of holding someone else to account feel really good, even after we have experienced the mercy of God. Lucky for us, there is no limit on God’s mercy. So, when we fall because we are ONLY human, God is there to lift us higher!