Today’s Gospel passage speaks of the importance of forgiveness. When Peter suggests that we should forgive our brother seven times, he is suggesting that we should forgive many times. However, our Lord has even bigger plans. When He says that we should forgive seventy times seven times, the meaning is that we should always forgive because God always forgives.
Forgiveness is closely tied to love. As we know, it is much easier to forgive someone we love. We should remember, then, that since we are called to love all people, we should also be disposed to forgive all people as a sign of our love for them. In the Gospel passage, the image of God’s infinite forgiveness is found in the king who is willing to forgive the debt of his servant. The servant asks for more time to repay the debt, but the king does him one better and forgives him the loan. Our relationship with God is often like this too. Many people frequently feel the need to bargain with God, to offer Him something in return for His forgiveness. All too often we ask too little of God, thinking of Him in human terms rather than in divine terms. In the parable, though, the king does not accept the servant’s guarantees to repay the loan. Instead, because He is so moved with compassion by the servant’s pleading, he forgives the loan, not expecting repayment.
There are two lessons here for us regarding our relationship with God. The first is that God is moved with compassion at our pleading. God loves to hear from us in our times of prayer, and he wants our prayers to be fervent and sincere. Especially when we confess our sins, both in our daily examination of conscience and in our regulation reception of the Sacrament of Penance, this should not be a merely perfunctory act, but should be sincere and honest. When we go to confession, it can be easy to think of a couple of sins to confess, make sure we take care of the “big ones,” and then think, “ahh, that’ll do.” Rather, we should be make a full and complete examination of our consciences, asking for God’s healing forgiveness in every area of our lives in which we might owe him a debt by our sins. We should then stir up feelings of sorrow for our sins in order to offer this sorrow to our Lord as a sign of how much we love Him and how much we desire His grace in order not to fall into sin again.
The second lesson is the great generosity of God’s forgiveness. Now matter how many times we come back to Him asking for His forgiveness, He will continue to forgive our sins. The debtor owes his king “a huge amount.” The king likely knows that there is no way the servant will ever be able to repay this debt, which is why he forgives the loan rather than extend the terms of repayment. We too owe the Lord a “huge amount.” By our birth in original sin, we merit eternal damnation, a condition to which we return every time we commit a mortal sin. However, despite our unworthiness, through the infinite merits of His Son’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection, our heavenly King opens the gates of paradise to us through Baptism and the Sacrament of Penance, forgiving the debt of sin we owe Him that is far greater than any monetary loan that could eve be made.
If we realize, then, just how much and how generously we have been forgiven by our heavenly Father, forgiving others will come much more easily. The more often we receive His forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance, the easier it will be to forgive our brothers and sisters, even seventy times seven times.
Originally written for the radio show “Readings and Reflections” on Redeemer Radio. Originally aired August 13, 2015.