This past summer, I was blessed to finally marry the man I’d been patiently engaged to for an impractically long year! I spent almost the entire 12 months planning every detail of the wedding, as most brides do – from the brooches that would decorate my bridesmaids’ bouquets to the first and last songs we would dance to at the reception. With so much time and labor spent in anticipation of this very big day, I expected a flawless occasion!
But of course, I should have known better.
My hairstyle was a huge disappointment, the programs weren’t at the ceremony on time, my dad and I forgot to hug each other after he walked me down the aisle, we arrived 30 minutes late to the reception, the DJ played music we requested he not, the bar closed earlier than scheduled, we planned a birthday surprise for our priest but he left early… and I could go on, but I’ll spare you.
I anticipated the wedding day of my dreams. What I did not anticipate was spending the months to follow lamenting over what went wrong on our wedding day and who was to blame for so many of the mishaps. As much as I have spent time joyfully recalling the wonderful memories of that day (namely that I was united in Christ to the man I love!), I have actually laid awake many nights in frustrated anger at this or that, wishing things would have gone differently. It’s a bitterness that I’ve struggled to shake off.
But thanks be to God, this past Sunday brought light to my darkened perspective. At Mass, we heard in the gospel of Matthew (18:23-35), the parable of the unforgiving servant. Jesus tells the story of a king who sought to claim debts owed by his servants. One was brought to him who owed 10,000 talents, but because the servant couldn’t pay, the king ordered he sell himself, his family and all that he had in order to make payment. The servant begged on his knees for his king’s patience and the king, moved with compassion, had mercy and forgave his debt. The servant went out, and upon encountering a man who was indebted to him, he demanded the man pay the 100 denarii he owed. The man begged for the servant’s patience, but he offered no mercy and had him thrown into prison. Hearing of this, the king called on the servant again, and angrily delivered him to the tormentors until he could pay the 10,000 talents he owed.
The almost unimaginable thing about this story is that 10,000 talents was the equivalent of about 600,000 denarii. This would have been 200,000 years’ wages, an impossible amount to repay. It’s unthinkable how anyone could lend this amount, let alone get it paid back. And yet it is this seeming impossibility which beautifully reflects the infinite mercy God extends to us, as we incur debt through sin which can only be repaid with the heavy price of death. It is a debt, like the servant’s, that we have no capacity to repay… without Christ Crucified.
So the great news is that God is incredibly merciful and that He sent His Son to pay the price of our debt! The bad news is that I am the humiliated servant. Just as he failed to extend what was only a fraction of the forgiveness he was offered by his king, so I too have refused to offer forgiveness as my Lord has given me; only, instead of casting my friends, family, and wedding vendors into prison, I’ve been selfishly wallowing in bitterness toward them over petty mistakes and mishaps which are infinitely smaller than my own offenses against God.
Certainly I’ve known that my pitiful mulling has been in vain, because I can’t go back to change that day, but thanks to Sunday’s gospel, I’m reminded of the importance of “forgiving those who trespass against us” as I ask God to forgive my trespasses. I’m reminded to let go of the bitterness I cling to when I trust that God lovingly relinquishes the bitterness He is very much entitled to hold against me. As often as I return to the confessional and ask for the Lord’s mercy because I messed up once again, I must equally as often (and as willingly) share that mercy with others, including every person who touched my life on my very special wedding day.