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a) Forgiveness: The wicked servant.


The Savior told this parable in response to Peterís question about how many times one had to forgive oneís brother. The Apostle Peter thought that it would be enough to forgive up to seven times. Christ replied that one should forgive oneís brother "seventy times seven" times, implying that forgiveness must be given always, for an unlimited number of times. As an explanation, He told the following parable:

"Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses" (Mt. 18:23-35).

In this parable God is likened to a king who lent certain amounts of money to his servants. A human is an insolvent debtor before God not only because of his sins, but also because of his lack of good works; those good things which he could have done for others but did not do. These undone works of love are our debts also. In the Lordís prayer we ask, "And forgive us our debts," not just our sins! By the end of our life, when we await our turn to God to account for the life we have lived, we will find out that we all have been insolvent debtors. The parable of the unjust steward says that we can rely on Godís mercy only if we wholeheartedly forgive offenders. That is why we must remind ourselves every day, "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."

Furthermore, with regard to this parable, the offences our neighbors incur upon us are negligible compared to our debt to God; it is like small change compared to capital worth over a million dollars. It must be said that the feeling of injury is very individual. One person might not take notice of the occasional word or act of an acquaintance, while the same words or acts may cause another to take offense his entire life. From the spiritual standpoint, the feeling of injury originates from piqued ambition and hidden pride. The more self-loving and proud a man is, the more touchiness he has. Resentment, if one does not get rid of it at once, may gradually become rancor. Rancor, according to St. John of the Ladder, is the "rust of the soul, worm of the mind, opprobrium of prayers, alienation of love Ö ceaseless sin." Rancor is hard to fight. In another of his counsels, St. John of the Ladder writes, "Recollection of the sufferings of Jesus will heal the rancor, [which will be] reproached by His goodness." Further on, he says, "When after a long good fight you are not able to remove this thorn, then at least in your words repent and humble yourself before the one whom you are angry with, so that you become ashamed of your sustained hypocrisy and able to love this one perfectly."

It is very important that we pray for those whom we feel offended by, and that this help us to overcome our unkind feelings towards them. If we could see the multitude of debts for which we have to give account to God, we would gladly make haste to forgive all our enemies, even our worst, and to win God's mercy. Unfortunately, such recognition of our wrongs and our guilt before God does not come to us on its own, but requires the continuous and strict trial of our conscience in the Evangelical light. Whoever forces himself to forgive his neighbors will, as a reward for this effort, receive the gift of genuine Christian love which our Holy Fathers called the Queen of Virtues. These works of love are discussed in the parables which we cover in the following Chapter.

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