The First Reading is Azariah’s prayer to God. His nation is exiled in Babylon. As he said, we have no ruler, or prophet, or leader, no burnt offering, or sacrifice, or oblation, or incense, no place to make an offering before you to find mercy. This was a time when the Temple was destroyed and the people were not able to worship in the way God had commanded them. This sounds like what we have right now. The government has discriminated against Christians and prohibited worship in Churches while people go to malls and other events without problems. In these situations, what should we do? We cry to God and ask him with a contrite heart and a humble spirit may we be accepted, as though it were burnt offerings of rams and bulls, or with ten of thousands of fat lambs, such may our sacrifice be in your sight today, and may we unreservedly follow you, for no shame will come to those who trust in you. And now with our heart we follow you, we fear you and seek your presence. This is a cry from a heart that trusts God will deal with this situation. Although Azariah did not cause the fall of his nation, he begged forgiveness from God for his people. Azariah shows us what repentance is: to unreservedly follow God, to fear God and seek him. When we come to the Lord, and beg for his mercy, we are confident he will hear us. Because Azariah said do not put us to shame, but deal with us in your patience and in your abundant mercy. God is merciful, and when we turn back to him, he will forgive.
As God was merciful to his people, he will be merciful to us when we turn our hearts to him. God’s love makes him forgive us. Which is why we should never, ever despair of God’s forgiveness. The Gospel shows us his immense love for us. The master willingly forgave the debt of the slave at the request of the slave. We may feel unworthy of his forgiveness or mercy. But this is precisely why it is called mercy. We are given what we do not deserve.
However the forgiveness needs to have a response. The slave begged for mercy but when he was released, he did not even thank the master and as he went out, he met a fellow slave who owed him a lot less. He threw the slave into prison and expects him to pay the debt while he was in prison. This shows how calloused the slave was. He did not understand the idea of mercy. The master heard about this and handed the slave over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. When God forgives us, he expects us to change. In the case of the slave, the master expected the slave would have compassion on another who owed him a lot less amount. God forgives whatever sins we have, but he expects us to change. If it is a habitual sin, he is not expecting us to totally get rid of it immediately. But he expects us to try our best to fight against it, or even that desire to get rid of it.
Expecting God to forgive us just because we ask is selfish and makes God as someone who has to obey us. The truth is God is God. He does not owe us anything and he can do as he wants. He forgives us because of his mercy, but we are expected to change and turn back to him.
Lord, I come to you asking for mercy. Forgive me for my sins, but let me learn from your mercy. Teach me to respond to your mercy by changing my heart to turn to you.