Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent
(Daniel 3:25.34-43; Matthew 18:21-35)
Last week the governor of Texas commuted the sentence of a man who killed his mother and brother. The man was supposed to be executed, but with a recommendation of the Board of Pardons and Parole and also the petition of the killer’s father, the sentence was changed to life in prison. Anti-death penalty supporters considered the change of sentence as a victory for their movement. Perhaps death penalty proponents saw it as a step backward. It would be better to review the decision through the lens of today’s gospel than as an ideological war.
Jesus is urging his followers to forgive those who repent of their crimes not superficially but “from the heart.” He wants them to rejoice in the conversion of a sin as well as to love their enemies. However, he does not show tolerance for the person who receives forgiveness but does not show it to others. Such people, he might say, have to learn the hard way if they are to learn at all.
We have to take our lives seriously. They are not games which we play over and over winning sometimes and losing other times until we die. Rather our lives are more like a long educational process in which we will hopefully become loving people like our teacher and Lord Jesus. If the man whose sentence was commuted has not learned to forgive offenses against him, a long life in which he dies in bed will be no better than a short life in which he dies at the hand of an executioner. He will never reach the goal in life which is, again, to love like Jesus.