Celebrating the Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
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 your brother from your heart (Mt 18:32-35).”
Today's Gospel is from St. Matthew 18:21-35. On hearing this story of the merciless servant, each one of us would rightly judge him as a mean, low type of man, a heartless man, who puts himself outside the pale of mercy. He throttled his fellow-servant for a paltry debt of ten dollars, and would not listen to the poor man's plea for mercy. When we hear what the king did to this heartless servant we heartily approve and say: "It served him right, he got what he richly deserved."
We had better stop and think for a moment today and reflect that we ourselves may be that merciless servant described in the parable. Every time we have sinned mortally we have incurred an unpayable debt to God. Each time we have received absolution we have come out of God's courtroom as free men. A weight greater than a million dollar debt has been lifted from our shoulders. A fate worse than generations of earthly imprisonment — that is, eternal slavery — has been spared us because of God's loving, infinite mercy. How then can it happen that we could be so heartless, mean, and foolish as to refuse to forgive a neighbor for some offense he has committed against us?
Yet it happens, and it may be that there are some among us here today who continue to have enmity in their hearts against neighbors who offended them. In their hard-heartedness, they cannot get themselves to forgive and forget. Are these not following in the footsteps of the merciless servant? Will they not receive the punishment of the merciless servant — a punishment richly deserved? This will be the fate of all unforgiving Christians; they will meet an unforgiving God when they are called to settle their accounts.
That day has not yet come for us. We still have time to put our affairs in order. We still can forgive all our enemies from our heart. If we do not, we are cutting ourselves off from the possibility of having our own sins and offenses forgiven by God. We have the solemn word of our divine Lord for this in the lesson he draws from the parable "So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you (that is, deliver us up to eternal slavery) if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."
Look upon us, O God, Creator and ruler of all things, and, that we may feel the working of your mercy, grant that we may serve you With all our heart.