The Lenten readings lately have been filled with seemingly harsh messages presented by the Lord to His people. It might be easy to fall into the comfort our faith usually provides–God is “love” after all. Nevertheless, we need to remember that true love stories are not simply “gumdrops and butterflies.” My dad repeated a quote from Matthew to me recently: “And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell.” (Mt 10:28). My dad made the point that Jesus was not referring to Satan, the one I always assumed Jesus was speaking about. Jesus was referring to His Father, our Father. How easy it is to forget the immeasurable power of God! Satan can tempt us, torture us, and try to kill us but he has no control of who is actually damned to Hell. That decision is God’s and God’s alone.
Lent is a season of reflection, when we look back at our sins and repent. We owe everything to God; without Him, we are dust and into dust we will return. One of the most difficult issues I personally struggle to overcome is selfishness. I become so upset when my life goes awry–I immediate ask God to fix the problem, and because He is my Father, I expect Him to do so. Then I remember that without Him I have absolutely nothing. There is no reason I can present to Him that would provide solid grounds for Him to give me anything I want. The only reason He does what He does for me is His divine mercy.
These lessons that Jesus sets before us in the recent readings are harsh and can create fear in us at times. What is to stop our Master from handing us over to the torturers until we pay back the whole debt, as Jesus speaks of in the parable in today’s Gospel. It harkens back to that central truth: God is Love. Because He loves us so much, He wants us to learn from these harsh lessons. He wants all His children to enter the kingdom of Heaven, and the only way to get there is to love Him enough to take these lessons to heart. Love is hard; it is not meant to be easy. Jesus came to show us not just the beautiful side of love, but its tough side as well.