By Brother Brian Boyle, C.PP.S.
The three readings touch on forgiveness and compassion for one another. I want to focus on the interconnectedness of the human family and the implications of that.
The Sirach reading gives practical guidance on forgiving others who have hurt us. Sirach asks, how can we ask the Lord for forgiveness when we fight with our neighbors? It is as if he wants to say, “Get real, if the Lord punishes you, don’t come crying to me.”
Paul speaks directly on the interconnectedness of each other through Christ. We are all part of Christ’s body. Making conflict with each other only hurts the body. Practicing forgiveness and compassion with each other strengthens it.
In the Gospel, we hear the parable of the unmerciful servant. A modern re-telling of this parable might look like this: There was a CEO of a corporation who declined to take administrative action upon a supervisor who begged for forgiveness. Upon leaving the CEO’s office, the supervisor fired a staff person for a petty infraction. Word got back to the CEO. He then turned around and fired the supervisor.
Leaders don’t lead in a vacuum. They need the support of the people who follow them. Practicing forgiveness makes the body of people stronger. My friend and colleague enlisted in the U.S. Army upon high school graduation. One day he neglected to read a duty list and he found out he was 15 minutes late to a scheduled guard duty on his base. He describes how his commanding officer held him accountable without taking administrative action on him. This experience made him a better soldier and he used that experience in how he led other soldiers. He uses that experience in leading a church congregation today.
What if the Messiah comes and nothing changes? That depends upon us. The Lord has probably forgiven us many more times than we would care to know. The Lord forgives us but is more than likely not going to force us to forgive each other. No Jedi mind tricks. Forgiving each other is our responsibility.
Brother Brian Boyle, C.PP.S., is a hospital chaplain in Northwest Indiana. He is also the associate director of Companions (lay associates) of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood.