Mt 18:21-35: The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

Human experiences teach us:

  • That the people who hurt us often and hurt us the most are people who are so close to us. That is why there is a song entitled, “Why do we always hurt the one we love?”
  • That the people we find the hardest to forgive are also people who are so close to us. People as such we call them traitors and ungrateful. It has been said that one’s best friends is  one’s worst enemies.
  • That the people who are deeply hurt or aggrieved have the tendency to self-pity, anger, hatred, resentment and revenge. Given all these, it is hard to forgive, much harder, to forgive constantly. Indeed Alexander Pope is correct when he once said, “To err is human, to forgive is divine.”

If your heart is filled with anger, hatred and revenge and you  find it hard to forgive, then the message of today’s Gospel is for you: forgive without limits!

Christian must forgive seventy times seven. In other words the limit of forgiveness must be limitless. “When He says, “Until seventy times seven,” He does not limit a definite number within which forgiveness must be kept; but He signifies thereby something endless and ever enduring” (St. John Chrysostom).

Why do we need to forgive?

  • “The only way to peace is forgiveness. To accept and give forgiveness makes possible a new quality of rapport between men, interrupts the spiral of hatred and revenge and breaks the chains of evil which bind the heart of rivals” (Pope John Paul II,  Homily at Mass for First Sunday of Lent, “Day of Pardon”, March 12, 2000 and Angelus Message, March 12, 2000).
  • “Forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the high cost of hatred, and the waste of energy” (E. C. McKenzie).
  • Forgiveness of one another is a condition for authentic worship of the Father. “If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mt. 5:23-24; cf. 6:14-15; Mk 11:25; CCC 2841; cf. CFC 2187).
  • Man must forgive in order to be forgiven by God. The parable is a comment upon the fifth petition of the Lord’s prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us” (Mt 6:12).  Those, and those only, may expect to be forgiven of God, who forgive their brethren “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will you Father forgive your trespasses” (Mt 6:14, 15). As James had it, “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy” (James 2:13).

“Because you are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy, with kindness, humility, meekness and patience.  Bear with one another; forgive whatever grievances you have against one another. Forgive as God has forgiven you in Christ” (Col 3:12f). Forgive and “so be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect ” (Mt 5: 44-48).

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