One of Jesus’ most arresting stories is a parable he told about a merciless servant (Matthew 18:21-35).
In the story, a man owes his master a lot of money, but he is unable to pay. Terrified at the prospect of debtor’s prison, the man begs for mercy, and the master cancels the entire debt. But then that same man finds a fellow servant who owes him a much smaller amount, and demands that he pay up. This second servant also begs for mercy, but the first one refuses and has him jailed. When the master finds out, he is furious and changes his mind—the unmerciful servant ends up in jail after all.
This unmerciful servant thought he had every right to be merciless to a fellow servant. Even though he had received so much mercy, he chose to treat someone else according to the letter of the Law. Judgment was more important than mercy!
What does this story have to do with Advent and Christmas? Everything! Because when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, he showed us that “mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). He came to forgive all our sins. He came to cancel our enormous debt. And the bulk of our debt has to do with the ways we have hurt each other. Now, Jesus could have just wiped our slate clean, but he didn’t. Instead, he told us, “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you” (Matthew 6:14). In other words, he wants us to cancel one another’s debts so that our hearts can be opened to receiving his mercy and forgiveness.
Take the First Step. Jesus wants us to take the first step, just as he did for us when he came into the world as a baby. He wants us to treat other people with the same mercy he has poured out on us. And he knows that the best way for us to be inspired to forgive is to keep thinking and praying about the child in the manger.
So as you contemplate the story of Christmas this year, try to see what the unmerciful servant could not see. See how much God has forgiven you. See how eager he was to win your reconciliation. Let his generosity be the driving force that inspires you to forgive just as generously.
This year, let’s all decide to give Jesus two wonderful birthday presents. First, let’s go to Confession and get ourselves right with the Lord. Second, let’s try to reconcile at least one strained relationship. Let’s be the ones to take the first step. Nothing makes the Lord smile more than our gestures of love and our offers of forgiveness. Together, we can give Jesus thousands of reasons to smile!
May you have a blessed Christmas and a happy New Year. May we all learn how to love one another more deeply. May we all let mercy triumph over judgment.
Joe Difato, Publisher | Email the Publisher at firstname.lastname@example.org