September 17, 2023 – 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
When I was in second grade, my prized possession was a metal Star Wars-themed lunch box. After school one day, another student ripped it from my hands. I helplessly watched in horror as my classmate threw it to the ground and violently stomped it into an unrecognizable heap of junk. I came home covered in tears of shame and rage. After a few months, I never thought about it again … until I was almost thirty years old and on a retreat to prepare for ordination to the priesthood.
That childhood memory — and the attendant outrage — came back afresh. My spiritual director helped me in the process of acknowledging that I was angry because that kid owed me my lunch box. Then she helped me, through the grace of Jesus, to forgive the debt. Almost immediately I felt a new peace. I was amazed that I hadn’t forgotten what I had lost, even from years before. Aren’t we human beings simply amazing at remembering what people owe us?
We see this week in Jesus’ parable a servant who is forgiven much but then commands another servant: “Pay back what you owe!” He can’t forget or let go of how he was wronged. He remembers — and he becomes a monster because of it. If only he had remembered not only the debts owed to him, but also his greater debt owed to — and forgiven by — his master. It’s natural for us to remember what others owe us. But when we contextualize those offenses in Jesus’ mercy toward us and them, we’re free to be merciful like the Master and less like a monster who never forgets.
— Father John Muir