Mt 18: 21-35
Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.
“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’
And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt.
When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt.
So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Let Forgiveness Abound
Point! In the Gospel Jesus responds to Peter’s question about how often one person should forgive another: “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.” Surely, this is a statement about the graciousness and frequency with which we are to forgive others. But, interestingly, from whom did Jesus learn that reply, and does it not, in a hidden way, reveal something of the plentitude and promptness of divine mercy? Hmm, you mean, that’s the way God forgives—quite graciously and frequently? So we actually can anticipate such pardoning when we stumble and are wayward in virtue? It appears so. It is so! It matches up well with today’s psalm refrain: “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Ps 103:8).
Practice! In the parable itself, the master was patient and compassionate, and eventually forgives the first servant. That servant, however, wasn’t able to be patient and compassionate enough to his fellow servant. Lesson not learned! Opportunity missed! Effectively, the second servant missed out on extending to another in our human context a portion of that same “seventy-seven times” plentitude and promptness of divine mercy.
—Fr. Richard Baumann, SJ, is a regional vocation directors for the Midwest Jesuits.
Gracious God, in our personal stumbling or in our collective waywardness as a nation, may we—as individuals and citizens—receive your divine and constant forgiveness and, in turn, approximate the same in our relations with others. Amen.
—Fr. Richard Baumann, SJ