2 Sam 12:7-10; Gal 2:16, 19-21; Lk 7:36-8:3
Aesop's Fables have been around since 620 B.C. Millions of people have enjoyed hearing them and learning from them for centuries. The story of the lion and the mouse conveys a great message.
A lion was sleeping one day when a little mouse came along and ran up and down over his face.
This awakened the lion and made him very angry.
He put his paw over the mouse and said, "What do you mean by waking me? You shall pay for this," and he opened his big mouth to swallow the mouse. The mouse pleaded to let him free.
The lion roared that he would not let him go.
The frightened mouse pleaded again. "If you let me go perhaps I can do something for you sometime." This made the lion laugh. But he pardoned the mouse.
As the little mouse scampered off, he said, "Thank you, kind lion, I shall not forget your kindness."
Sometime after this the lion was caught in a trap. He roared so loud and struggled to free himself. The little mouse heard him; he ran to him and saw that the lion was in trouble.
He worked long and hard and at last the lion was free. The lion once forgave the little mouse and the mouse in return risked his own life as a gratitude to the great forgiveness he received.
Today’s readings give us the message of God’s forgiveness and the response that offer of forgiveness demand from us. The first reading presents an account of David’s sin. Nathan the prophet walked into David’s chamber to announce God’s wrath. He said, “You have shown contempt for the Lord, doing what displeases him.” David reacted to the rebuke of Nathan with great humility. He realized his sin, repented of it and lamented, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Then Nathan said to David, The Lord, for his part, forgives you.”
David always remained grateful to the Lord for this forgiveness. We hear David’s response in today's psalm. It expresses his regret for his sin and gratitude for God’s mercy.
“Happy is the man whose offense is forgiven,
Whose sin is remitted.”
The lesson of David’s sin and response is indeed beautiful. Jesus completes it in today’s Gospel. A woman who was a public sinner approached Jesus. She bathed his feet in tears of remorse. This upset the others. They reacted to the woman and questioned Jesus. Jesus did not make light of her wrongdoing. He told her that her sins, "her many sins," were forgiven.
The very mission of Jesus on earth was to convey the message of God’s mercy. Through the words of the prophets and deeds of kindness God has been revealing his mercy to the people. The Bible shows that God’s watch care rests over the people who practise forgiveness. Joseph’s brothers grew jealous of him. So they sold him to Egypt. But Joseph forgave his brothers. Therefore God protected him. Throughout the Ministry of Jesus we see that Jesus offered his forgiveness to the people. Therefore, the same attitude is demanded from his followers too.
Forgiveness is a divine quality. It is the attribute of God himself. Alexander Pope wrote, “To err is human; to forgive is divine.” There is a beautiful poem about forgiveness.
When on the fragrant sandal-tree
The woodman's axe descends,
And she who bloomed so beauteously
Beneath the keen stroke bends,
E'en on the edge that wrought her death
Dying she breathed her sweetest breath,
As if to token, in her fall,
Peace to her foes, and love to all.
How hardly man this lesson learns,
To smile and bless the hand that spurns;
To see the blow, to feel the pain,
But render only love again!
This spirit not to earth is given -
One had it, but he came from heaven.
Reviled, rejected, and betrayed,
No curse he breathed, no plaint he made,
But when in death's deep pain he sighed
Prayed for his murderers, and died.
Too many times we dwell on the wrongs that have been done against us. So it is difficult for us to forgive others. So Mahatma Gandhi says, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
Forgiveness should be offered when people require it. Delayed pardon does not do any good. Thomas Campbell’s poem “Lord Ullin's Daughter” conveys this message in a heart rending tone. Two lovers, the young "chief of Ulva's isle" and his "bonny bride," Lord Ullin's daughter, had been hotly pursued by Lord Ullin and his horsemen for three days. Both knew that the young man would be slaughtered if they were captured. They approached a boatman on the stormy night to row them across and offered him a silver pound. Seeing their plight the boatman, agreed to row them across in spite of the raging storm, not for money, but for the sake of the "winsome lady." As the pursuers approached, the boat put out into the stormy lake. Lord Ullin was shocked to see his daughter in the midst of the raging waves. She put one hand around her lover and the other was stretched towards her father for help. He called out to them, vainly promising forgiveness to the young man if only they would return but it was too late. The waves swallowed them and he was left lamenting.
William Blake says “The glory of Christianity is to conquer by forgiveness.” If we can practice this principle in our life we can find peace, joy and fulfilment.