I recently finished reading a small but excellent book on the mercy of God. The book gives four conditions for receiving this great gift of God’s goodness on weak, sinful, erratic and wounded people. The first one is trust, the second is humility, the third is gratitude, and the last is forgiveness. The gospel offers a good explanation of the importance of the last one.

The point of the gospel (Mt. 18) is not that God forgives. That is a given. Every one knows that from the early stages of life. God is greater that any fault that human beings can commit and therefore, he can pardon sins, and purify all blemishes of the soul. 

However, the gospel stresses that forgiveness comes with a condition. The understanding master asks the harsh servant, who he has previously forgiven a huge debt: should you not have had pity “as” I had pity on you? (v. 33). With those words, the master angrily revoked the privileges he has given this debtor.

This “as” is not an isolated conjunction in the statements of Our Lord. Repeatedly, Jesus used “as” in his preaching and teaching. We are to be perfect “as” the heavenly Father; to love “as” he has loved us; to receive forgiveness “as” we forgive others. And now, to show mercy “as” we have also experienced it.

Why insist on this “as”? The Lord is telling us that the basis of our love and service is not our own selves. God is the model of all goodness, but he is not a model to be admired and adored from a distance. He is the model of life that invites us to participate in his way of dealing with people, with our brethren, and especially with our enemies. In the same way that we receive from his hands, we are to pass on to others the bounty of the merciful God.

It is not easy to forgive, to let go, to forget, and to release ourselves from the shackles of the past. Relying on ourselves, how can we truly and sincerely do it? But with God, all things are possible, if only we hatch on to his way of doing things. Let us beg for the grace to forgive as we have been forgiven, to share love as we have known it from God.