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The parable of the unforgiving servant


Gospel Reading: Mt 18:21–19:1


Peter approached Jesus and 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 may be 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 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 ser­vant 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 my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”

When Jesus finished these words, he left Gali­lee and went to the district of Judea across the Jordan.


Reflections: Unless each of you forgives


The parable of the Unforgiving Servant is part of the Community Discourse found in the whole of chapter 18 of Matthew. Here the evangelist gath­er the teachings of Jesus for the guidance of the believing community. The discourse includes the measure of greatness (being like a child), avoid­ance of scandal, and searching for the lost.

The parable illustrates the teaching of Jesus that forgiveness is to be without limit or measure (seventy-seven times). Forgiveness should not be subject to any formal or legal legislation. Its measure is the forgiving nature of God symbol­ized by the king who lets go of the servant and forgives the loan. God’s pardon is received gra­tuitously; forgiveness, in return, must be given gratuitously. But this can only be bestowed if one understands and experiences how it is to be for­given by God.


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Kind and forgiving words are always music to a heavy heart.


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SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord,” ST PAULS,” 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: publishing@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.