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Jun 10th
Home Sections The Daily B.R.E.A.D. March 17, 2009 - Tuesday Meditation (His Mercy Endures Forever)
March 17, 2009 - Tuesday Meditation (His Mercy Endures Forever) PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 17 March 2009 15:19
In movies, we often see the merciful hero let the ungrateful villain go; then later the villain returns and makes things even more difficult for the hero.  Would it not have been better for the hero to dispatch the villain in the first place? 

Daniel 3:25, 34-43
Psalm 25:4-5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8-9

Matthew 18:21-35 Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" (22) Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. (23) "Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. (24) When he began the reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents; (25) and as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. (26) So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, `Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' (27) And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that same servant, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat he said, `Pay what you owe.' (29) So his fellow servant fell down and besought him, `Have patience with me, and I will pay you.' (30) He refused and went and put him in prison till he should pay the debt. (31) When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken  place. (32) Then his lord summoned him and said to him, `You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; (33) and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?' (34) And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt. (35) So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."

Meditation by Brian Kokensparger

A student slouches across my desk from me.  He is one of my students, and I haven’t seen him in class for two weeks.  Now it’s time for mid-term grades to go in, and he assures me that he’ll start coming to class again, and he’ll make up all of the work.  “Please don’t give me an “F”  for my mid-term grade – my parents will kill me!” he says, with a tear in his eye.
Mercy is a strange thing.  We are taught, in today’s Gospel, to forgive debts, as our debts are forgiven by our Heavenly Father.  In movies, we often see the merciful hero let the ungrateful villain go; then later the villain returns and makes things even more difficult for the hero.  Would it not have been better for the hero to dispatch the villain in the first place?  And doesn’t mercy rob the recipient of the opportunity to learn from mistakes?

These are the questions I ask myself, as I try to determine the best course of action with this student.  On one hand, the student might just need a nudge in the right direction, a little time to make that adjustment to college life.  On the other hand, he needs to learn that there are consequences to his actions (or lack thereof, in this case), and that he is accountable for the choices he makes.

I am probably pretty soft as a teacher.  At this moment, I am inclined to accept the excuse, and encourage the student to come to the rest of the class sessions and make up the missing work.  The student has good potential – he could do “A” work if he applied himself.  We are bound by academic honesty to give the grade the student earns for a final grade, but with so little of the grade in at mid-term, certainly there’s a little wiggle room.  Maybe we could split the difference with a “C.”  These thoughts also run through my mind. 
I picture two scenarios – one is the student finally making the adjustment, and turning things around.  He becomes an honor roll student, and twenty years down the road, talks about those good years at Creighton and that computer science teacher that hung in there and gave him a break when he really needed it.   The other scenario is the student walking out of my office, smirking, and saying “sucker!” under his breath.  This scenario shows him bouncing from one lenient person to another through life, refining his teary-eyed routine into a well-polished performance with a guaranteed result.
Looking at these two scenarios, one thing becomes painfully clear:  both have very little to do with the student, per se, and very much to do with me and my ego.  In the former, my ego gets stroked by being the good guy that made a difference in the life of a student.  In the latter, my ego gets kicked in the chops by being the naïve sucker who accepts a lame excuse to enable a student to keep playing games.  Neither scenario is focused on the student.

In the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius encourages spiritual directors to treat each person as an individual, to help their retreatants discern what God has in store for their lives.  Though it’s difficult to always treat a classroom of 30 students as individuals, it is not so difficult to do so for that one student sitting in my office.
Jesus knew how to read the hearts of people He met in His ministry.  To do so, I am convinced that He engaged them in conversation.  He did not simply talk to them or with them.  He was sympathetic (sym- is “with, or together,”  -pathetic is “affecting or moving the feelings”).  I am also convinced that mercy can only be authentically meted out when one is sympathetic – when one walks alongside another.  This sympathy does not develop quickly – it takes time and a few well-directed questions.
Back to my slouching student.  I pour him some coffee.  I ask him about what it is exactly that he came to Creighton to find.  He’s shocked.  “Why do you want to know that?” he asks.  His answer will lead to another question.  Another answer, another question.  Pretty soon we’re both on the same side of the desk.

Sooner or later, we’ll get around to talking about that mid-term grade.  By that time, we’ll both already know the solution, because we walked there on the same path.
Supplementary Reading 
The Value of Time

The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all." – Ecclesiastes 9:11

Time is valuable. Psychiatrist and author M. Scott Peck said, "Until you value yourself, you won't value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it."

In What to Do Between Birth and Death, Charles Spezzano says that people don't pay for things with money; they pay for them with time. If you say to yourself, In five years, I'll have put enough away to buy that vacation house, then what you are really saying is that the house will cost you five years—one-twelfth of your adult life. "The phrase spending your time is not a metaphor," said Spezzano. "It's how life works."

Instead of thinking about what you do and what you buy in terms of money, think about them in terms of time. Think about it. What is worth spending your life on? Seeing your work in that light just may change the way you manage your time.

* * *
Answer this question: Are the tasks on today's agenda worthy of my life? 
* * *

Note:  This excerpt was taken from the "The Maxwell Daily Reader"

PRAY as if everything depended on HIM. ACT as if everything depended on YOU.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 16:35

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Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.~Calvin Coolidge~