THE UNFORGIVING SERVANT
Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J
Table of Contents
Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you not seven times but seventy-seven times. That is why the kingdom of heaven is likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children and all of his property in payment of the debt. At that the servant fell down, did him homage and said, ‘Be patient with me and I will pay you back in full.’ Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan. When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt. Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will your heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.” (Matt.18-21)
The lesson of the parable is that forgiveness, reconciliation, is necessary for salvation. Everyone knows that the essence of Christianity is love. Not everyone, however, seems to know that reconciliation is an essential part of love. Human nature being what it is, we cannot love for any period of time without having to forgive and be forgiven. Because reconciliation is an essential part of love, God has commanded us not only to love our neighbor but also to forgive our neighbor. When we say the Our Father we make forgiveness of others a condition for our own forgiveness. “And forgive us our trespasses AS WE forgive those who trespass against us.” Maybe next time we say the Our Father we should think about this.
Reconciliation is also necessary for our physical, mental and spiritual health and well being. Nothing can destroy us faster and more completely as the refusal to forgive. If we refuse to forgive, and harbor this resentment in our heart, it will rob us of our sleep, take away our appetite, give us ulcers and put us in a hospital.
Reconciliation is also necessary for peace in the family and peace in the community. When fickle, fallible, sinful human beings live together as closely as they do in the family and in a community, there is plenty opportunity and necessity for forgiveness. And it is this reconciliation that solidifies and strengthens the family and the community.
Reconciliation is also necessary for peace in the world. The Middle East today is torn apart by resentment, hatred, war and the refusal to forgive. Retaliation only intensifies the tension. No political, economic or military system will ever bring peace. Only reconciliation can bring lasting peace.
Forgiveness is not easy, but it is possible. What makes it possible is that God has already forgiven us more than we will ever have to forgive others. And if God has forgiven us we should forgive ourselves. This is a strange phenomenon indeed and one that is not rare. I have met many people on retreat who say that even though they know that God has forgiven them they just can’t forgive themselves. And I ask them, “Are you greater than God?”
Forgiveness of self
is the norm for forgiveness of others just like love of self is the norm
for love of the neighbor. If we do not forgive our self we will not be
able to forgive others because forgiveness is an essential part of love.
“You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself” means
also that you shall forgive your neighbor as you forgive yourself.
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