13 March. Tuesday of Week 3 of Lent
Daniel 3:25ff. King Nebuchadnezzar praises the miraculous escape of the three young Jews
Matthew 18:21ff. The forgiveness Jesus wants in his Church
Making a New Start
The collapse described by the book of Daniel, is total, much more chaotic than out own financial and political wilderness today. “We have in our day no prince, prophet or leader, no holocaust, sacrifice, oblation or incense, no place to offer first fruits, to find favour with you.” These words of lament were uttered from the fiery furnace. All has gone up in flames! Such total destruction is matched by the “whole heart” with which the Lord’s servants turn back to him. We follow you, they declare, unreservedly. This conversion to the Lord begins with the admission: we are brought low because of our sins. Daniel does not pretend that all is well or attempt any self-justification. He tells it as it is. Earlier he confessed: “We have sinned and transgressed by departing from you, and we have done every kind of evil” (v 29). Conversion requires honesty, if we are to experience of God’s kindness and mercy. God can give this grace only if his people are honest with themselves. To be forgiven they must confess their sins.
Just as Daniel and his companions recovered hope by remembering their tradition as the people of God, the parable of Jesus extends this combination of repentance and forgiveness. The pardon we receive from God must reach out from us to all our brothers and sisters. “Should you not have dealt mercifully with your fellow servant,” the Father declares, “as I dealt with you?”. What we receive from God is makes us to be who we are; but we cannot remain who we are unless we also deal generously with others. The gift from God most difficult to share and bestow upon another is forgiveness; this is precisely the gift of which we all stand most in need. By giving we receive, and thus an integral wholeness with one another and with God is achieved. In Lent we seek forgiveness from God, but on the way we also seek to be reconciled with brother and sister.
First Reading: Daniel 3:25, 34-43
Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up quickly. He said to his counsellors, “Was it not three men that we threw bound into the fire?” They answered the king, “True, O king.” He replied, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the middle of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the fourth has the appearance of a god.”
Nebuchadnezzar then approached the door of the furnace of blazing fire and said, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counsellors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men; the hair of their heads was not singed, their tunics were not harmed, and not even the smell of fire came from them.
Nebuchadnezzar said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants who trusted in him. They disobeyed the king’s command and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that utters blasphemy against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins; for there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.” Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
Gospel: Matthew 18:21-35
Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.
“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, is lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt.
So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”