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  • Sister Susan Reflects on the Memorial of St. Patrick
Sister Susan Reflects on the Memorial of St. Patrick

Sister Susan Reflects on the Memorial of St. Patrick

Daniel 3:25, 34-43 and Matthew 18:21-35

St. Patrick is remembered today as the much-loved patron Saint of Ireland, of people of Irish descent everywhere in the world, and literally of all things GREEN!

As most of you know, he wasn’t Irish at all!  St. Patrick was a Roman Britain of the 5th century.  In his early teens, he was captured by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland to be a slave. He immediately found himself in the debt of the slave owner where he remained for about 6 years, until he was able to escape. Only after many years back in Britain did he decide to return to Ireland, to preach about the God he had come to love and to share his Christian faith.

Today’s readings are about debts owed, and unending forgiveness given –- that’s God’s mercy to us.  In the Gospel, Peter asks how often one must forgive a wrong done to them by another.  Jesus’ answer implies the meaning of “without limit”.  Seventy times seven! The perfect number really – not just seven times, but 7 squared making 49, and then multiplied by 10 (which of course is 3 + 7)!  All those significant Biblical numbers in one represents we are to forgive lots of times!  Matthew continues the story in a different way than one which portrays forgiving the same wrong many times. 

Matthew tells of one man who owed a terrible debt to his master, meaning a debt he could not repay.  Begging for extra time, the master was moved with compassion and mercy.  Wonder of wonders, the master forgave all the debt – not just a portion of it – but ALL of it!  What a gift to that servant!  

His outlandish generosity did not register at all with the servant, who then demanded payment from one of his own servants for a much smaller debt.  The servant threw the man in prison, where obviously it became impossible for repayment to ever happen.   

It took others to see the lack of generosity.  They recognized the servant hadn’t learned anything from what his own master had done for him.  His spirit remained mean when he refused to forgive the servant his little debt.  He missed the gift of compassion that he had received.

In the reading from Daniel, Azariah prays for the people – begging God for mercy, the mercy he knows they had received so many times in the past.  Now they were brought very low as he tells us – because of their sin – they had no leader, nothing even to sacrifice, and no altar on which to offer it to God.  They felt as if they had no way to return to God’s favor. 

However, they offered what they did have:  a contrite heart; a humble spirit. They asked God to “Receive us O Lord, that we may live.”   The very words we all sang on Saturday with Srs. Anne and Rosemary in our Suscipe.  We ask God to take our contrite hearts and make them become the offering we live each day.  Take our humble spirit and let it find favor with God.  Every day we ask to be placed in God’s presence, where we can find kindness and great mercy. 

These two stories, and Patrick’s life story, are about debts:  the debt of a slave to his master, a huge financial burden, and the debt of everything lost by the Israelites.

But remember - all was not lost.  In each story, God forgave: Patrick was restored to his home and gave back his faith to the Irish; the Israelites were delivered from their plight to continue to give God glory, and the servant at the outset was forgiven all of his huge debt.  Paying it back became “Go now and pay it forward.”  We’ve all heard that phrase before. 

Unfortunately, the servant in Matthew’s Gospel failed to recognize the value of compassion and mercy received, and was no doubt unable to ever pay back the debt, nor could he pay it forward.    

We can’t attempt to pay God anything - we are freely forgiven.  We cannot earn salvation because it is already ours – through the Resurrection of Christ from the dead!  We don’t live now to return a debt – we live to bear love, mercy and compassion to the world and those in it who have been blessedly placed in our path of life. 

The Gospel guides us on the pathway that leads us to forgive one another.  We live in God’s generosity – our lives must reflect generosity, compassion and mercy.  That is God’s expectation.

This is difficult to do, and we fail, just as the servant and the Israelites failed.  Each year we have Lent to make a new resolution of kindness.  Each day we have God’s blessing and life to try again.  May today be that day for each of us!



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