By Fr. Simi Volavola, MSC
“So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”
Today we are asked to reflect on hearts: the human heart and the heart of God. In today’s gospel, we see the human heart of Peter running out of forgiveness after the seventh offense of a brother. The human heart runs out of love, runs out of forgiveness.
The human heart, as Jesus portrays in the parable, empties quickly and turns violent and hurts not only the offending brother but even the ones he loves, his wife and children and even his property is lost. The empty human heart can hurt itself and others and his cosmos.
Azaraiah, in the first reading, is well aware of this condition of the human heart. He admits to the emptiness of his own heart, the emptiness of the heart of all of Israel. Emptied of all ability to offer burnt offering, sacrifice, oblation, or incense in the temple of Jerusalem to pay the debt of their sins to God, Azariah offers only his humble and contrite heart, emptied and sorrowful.
The Father shows His heart to Azariah and his companions and delivers them from the blazing furnace of Nebuchadnezzar. God’s heart is full of forgiving love for humble and contrite hearts.
What does the Father do to unforgiving hearts, to violent hearts? In His anger, He hands him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. Has the Father’s heart run out of forgiving love too?
The story of the Father’s heart does not end here but continues and climaxes on Good Friday. He emptied His own heart when His own Son was crucified on the cross to pay the infinite debt of humanity.
The Father’s heart was emptied when His Son’s heart was pierced and from it flowed the fullness of His forgiving love for all mankind who are languishing in the fires of hell.