(Matthew 18: 23-35)
In today’s Gospel, our Lord gives us a Parable that if we study it closely, it will help us when it comes to correctly facing the problems that keep happening in our relationships with others.
The story our Lord is telling here is not about actual historical people, rather it is a narrative that reveals to us our reality. With the 10,000 talents that this servant owed the king, our Lord illustrates our innumerable offences to the King of all, our Lord and our God- “For we all stumble in many things” (James 3:2). The 100 denarii represent what others have done to us. Accusations, injustices, bad behaviour, ungratefulness, contempt, bitter words and all that upset and unsettle relationships between us. All of this can be observed even among members of the same family. For example, a father may not be speaking to his child because of an act of disobedience. Likewise, a child might not want to see his father, because he believes that his father was unfair in dividing his inheritance. There are siblings who are separated because of a misunderstanding between them caused by an injustice or act of jealousy. Among husbands and wives we can see differences of opinion, lack of empathy, but also the inability to be understanding towards one another. This poisons their relationship and sets them apart. Friends and colleagues alike break long standing relationships from differences that stem from insignificant reasons.
Nonetheless, our Lord says that the acts of others toward us are trivial, compared to what we owe to God with our offences. The 10,000 talents which the first servant owed to his king equaled 60,000,000 denarii. The fellow servant, meanwhile, owed him a mere 100 denarii. Can 60,000,000 even be compared with the 100? For this, the wicked and evil servant received severe punishment. He could not even cancel this debt of a 100, so his debt of 60,000,000 was left against him.
We will face the same fate, if we do not learn to forgive others for the few injustices and grievances they commit against us. Our debt will remain unbearable and heavy towards God, because God will not in turn forgive our sins and they will burden our soul into the afterlife. God, with the utmost clarity, has placed that as a condition: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15). And Jesus ends his Parable with these words: “And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers…So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses” (Matthew 18: 34-35).
My brothers and sisters, what our Lord wants to teach us here, is the great gift of forgiveness and its significance for us to enter the kingdom of heaven. It is directly related to the salvation of our soul. Let’s not think: “Oh well, God will forgive us this too, together with all our offenses.” Yes, He will indeed forgive us, but only if we also forgive others, not just in words but wholeheartedly, just as the example he set before us. Isn’t it such a shame for a grudge, or simply our ego to deprive our soul of the forgiveness of God and condemn it to eternal punishment? It is mentioned in the Synaxarium that during the years of the Roman persecution of Christians, there was a priest named Saprikios, who was arrested for being a Christian and was being led to Martyrdom with other Christians. There was another fellow Christian, whose name was Nikiforos. This man had wronged Saprikios, and was following him, humbly begging for his forgiveness. Saprikios did not want to listen to a word from him. So what happened, my brothers and sisters? Our Lord took His grace away from the priest Saprikios and he eventually denied Christ. He escaped death, and Nikiforos took his place. In so doing, Nikiforos became a saint who is honoured by our Church on the 9th of February. Likewise, Saint Dionysios not only forgave the murderer of his own brother, but also protected him from those who were presecuting him. So these are the blessed results of forgiveness. Let us firmly consider this, and act accordingly!