— Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr —
Ordinary Time Week 19: Thursday

“Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?” (Matthew 18:33)

Saint John Chrysostom comments on this verse from today’s Gospel reading:

“Do you see the mercy of the Lord? Do you see contrasted the lack of mercy of the servant? Listen, all you who do such things for money: one should not act like this because it is a sin. But it is much worse to act like this for money. How then does he plead? “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” But he did not even respect the very words through which he had himself been saved. With these words he himself had been freed from a debt of ten thousand talents! He did not even recognize the harbor by means of which he had escaped shipwreck. Even the gesture of supplication did not remind him of his master’s kindness.

Casting all these out of his mind in his greed, cruelty and rancor, he was more brutal than any wild beast in seizing his fellow servant by the throat.

What are you doing, O my beloved? Do you not see that you are making such a demand upon yourself? You are deceiving yourself. You are thrusting a sword into yourself! You are revoking both the sentence and the gift. But he considered none of this, nor did he remember his own case, nor did he yield at all. Yet the requests were not on the same order. Compare them. One was for ten thousand talents, the other for a pittance: a hundred denarii. One was merely dealing with his fellow servant. But the other was dealing with his lord. The one received entire forgiveness; the other asked for delay, and not so much as this did he give him, for “he cast him into prison.” (The Gospel of Matthew, «Homily 61»)

Pondering today’s Patristic passage...
Perhaps you cringed as you heard what the servant did to a fellow servant who owed a mere pittance. His actions were devoid of any pity (sometimes mercy or compassion is an equally valid translation). But how do you define pity? Is it a feeling? Is it a sentiment that in essence sounds a heartless Seinfeld response, "That’s a shame!”? The biblical world of both Testaments makes a radical break with other ancient cultures in that pity is an action (or actions!) that knows what another person needs and take concrete steps to alleviate the need or burden. As far as Jesus is concerned, when mercy is demanded - feelings just don‘t cut it. Action is required and demanded by Jesus. These actions are not grand and spectacular. They are the grace-inspired and grace-motivated Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. So ask the Holy Spirit this day for a renewal of the Gifts imparted in Confirmation to attune your senses to see and hear the needs of people in your life, the understanding and wisdom to know what to do and the courage and fortitude to carry through with the Grace of God our Father.

O God,
Who filled the Priest and Martyr
Saint Maximilian Kolbe
with a burning love for
the Immaculate Virgin Mary
and with zeal for souls and love of neighbor,
graciously grant, through his intercession,
that, striving for Your glory
by eagerly serving others,
we may be conformed, even until death,
to Your Son.
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen