August 14 - Thursday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time
Peter asked Jesus how often he needed to forgive someone—what should be the limit of forgiving, seven times? Jesus said, rather, we must forgive seventy-seven times (seventy times seven, RSV). This is in contrast to Lamech who avenged himself seventy-sevenfold (Gen 4:24). In other words, limitless forgiveness is required of Jesus’ disciples. In this way we are left free for communion with God, and free for love. We must allow nothing to come between us and God.
Unforgiveness and preoccupation with hurt, insult, or injury would take us away from God. Anger and revenge would take their emotional toll on us. Forgiveness enables us to let go of these hurtful feelings and free us for God. “It is human to err and divine to forgive,” so we must ask the Lord to help us forgive. We may not be able to forget the hurt but we can forgive the injury anew and commend the person who injured us to the mercy of God through which we will grow more rapidly in love and holiness. Thus our becoming more and more like Jesus will be expedited.
Jesus then began to tell a parable to bring out the supreme importance of forgiveness. He tells a parable about a king who was moved with compassion for one of his servants. The servant owed him the huge amount of ten thousand talents, about 20 years’ wages for a laborer. When threatened to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property in payment of the debt, the servant fell on his knees and begged for time to pay him back. The king had pity on him and forgave him the whole debt.
This servant found a fellow servant who owed him the much smaller amount of a hundred denarii, about a hundred days’ wages. The fellow servant begged for patience and he would pay him back. But he refused and had him put in prison until he paid back the debt. When the master heard of this, he called in the wicked, unforgiving servant, and was extremely angry with him. He who had been forgiven the huge entire debt should have been merciful to his fellow servant for far less. He was then handed over to the torturers until he should pay the debt. But since the debt was so great as to be unpayable, the punishment will be endless. The heavenly Father will do the same for us unless we forgive our brothers from our hearts. We who have been forgiven an eternal debt of sin should readily forgive others of much smaller debts.