The unforgiving servant and bride

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.

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5 thoughts on “The unforgiving servant and bride

  1. I really found this post to be quite disturbing. Prior to your coming to hear this past Sunday’s gospel, I think the perspective you had was a truly a view held by many people today that leads to a very quick feeling of disappointment with their marriages.

    Let me tell you my story. I am 46 years old and my wife of 14 years/partner of 21 years died in July of 2008 after a long a brutal battle with Leukemia. We celebrated our wedding in the Catholic Church after having been together as a couple for 7 years. I remember very little of my wedding day. There were plenty of mess ups and things didn’t go right all the time, but the general spirit of that day was a lot of fun spent celebrating with family and friends.

    During the 14 years that followed our wedding day we had many good times and bad times, but in general our life was really good. We continued good careers, we had a son (we would have had more children but gave up after 5 miscarriages) we bought a house, we took great vacations, we took care of our parents in their final illness and we grew our little family by having my mother-in-law come live with us.

    We lived a great life! It’s wasn’t always fun or easy, but I could always, always trust that Patty and I would be together. We missed much and didn’t get to have all those memories of stuff that we did because it was more important to do the things that made a difference to the people in our live.

    Today I look back upon the life I had with my wonderful bride and I don’t think about anything to do with our wedding day as it becomes utterly meaningless as you live life. What I miss is her – I don’t miss any silly ceremony.

    A year after my wife’s death I got involved with a woman who was my age but had never been married. Within 9 months we were engaged. However that relationship utterly fell apart because she was focused on the “trappings of marriage” like the silly things she wanted to put in our wedding. The focus on these silly things extended into the rest of our life and I found that she was more focused on achieving these symbols than on me and our relationship. You’re viewpoints about the things that were missing from your wedding and the fact that you spent a year thinking about them seems remarkably like what my former fiancee thought.

    Just my opinion but if I were you I would really start thinking about what the importance of your marriage is. When you wake up in the morning don’t let the first thing that you think be a prayer of joy to your god, instead imagine what your life would be like if your husband sudden became deathly ill and what you would miss about him if he weren’t there. You might think God would never allow that to happen, but it does happen to many people – like me. And let me tell you, the importance of what happened or what did not happen on your wedding day becomes starkly apparent when your spouse is fighting for their life.

    Just my two cents worth from a fellow blogger who was once Catholic, has lived a lot of life and has some distinct opinions. I wish you great luck and happiness and I will continue to follow your blog.

    • Hello Jerry – I’m so sorry to hear about your wife. I count myself so blessed to have the company of my husband every day and we both thank God for our good health often.

      It is very presumptuous of you to suggest I should “start thinking” about the importance of my marriage. You have read less than 500 words about my wedding – in which I specifically highlighted my sinful errors. I trust you can only imagine, having enjoyed the gift of marriage yourself, the bliss I had on that day and how the graces we received in that Holy Sacrament of Matrimony have gifted us with the strength to endure every challenge and relish in every joy we have encountered thus far being united as one.

  2. Pingback: THURSDAY MID-DAY EXTRA | Big Pulpit

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