In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ in today’s Gospel we hear the parable of a man that is in debt. He is called before the king that he is indebted to settle his account. He does not have the resources to settle the debt and pleads for mercy. The king was merciful and forgave the man his debt. This same man as soon as he received mercy from the king is confronted with the same situation with one of his fellow servants. His fellow servant asks for mercy in the repayment of his debt. However rather than giving mercy to his fellow servant he gives judgment; he has his fellow servant cast into prison until he can pay the debt.
The other fellow servants saw the mercy that king had given this man and the harshness that he treated his fellow servant. They reported this to the king. The king then called the man before him and asked why he did not show the same mercy to his fellow servant that the king had shown to him. Then the king then judged the man according to his actions and had him put into prison until he could pay the debt. The Gospel ends with “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if you from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” (Matthew 18:35)
This Gospel reminds us that we have a merciful God that is ready to forgive our trespasses. All we need to do to receive this forgiveness is to humble ourselves and ask for forgiveness. For many of us this is a difficult thing because our self pride gets in the way.
Our pride gets in the way because we driven by our self will that we can solve all of our own problems. We don’t need the help of others or God. As result of this pride we struggle with life.
At some point in time in each of our lives something happens to us that makes us give an accounting for our life. Many of us turn to God at this point in our lives and ask for His mercy. While others would rather not give up their will to God and continue to struggle until the end.
When we are ready to ask for forgiveness and mercy God is there for us ready to receive us and show mercy. This is so clearly illustrated for us in the Gospel of the Prodigal Son that we hear every year as we prepare to enter into Great Lent.
Today’s Gospel reminds us that not only must we be willing to ask for mercy or forgiveness but we must be willing to practice forgiveness and mercy. The Gospel of Saint Luke further reminds us of this when our Lord says “Be you therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” (Luke 6:36) Our Lord even reminds us of this when He teaches us to how pray in the prayer Our Father; “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)
The greatest example of practicing forgiveness that we have is when our Lord is on the Cross and says “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) This shows the extent that we should be willing to forgive. We need to be willing to forgive those who persecute us without a justifiable cause.
When it comes to practicing forgiveness and mercy we often become impatient with our fellow man. This is because we often do not see any progress. We see the person doing the same thing over and over again.
When our Lord was asked by the Apostle Peter how often he should forgive sin our Lord replied “Until seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:22) When our Lord said this he did not mean a specific number of times. He was using the biblical understanding of numbers to explain how patient we should be with the sinner or the one that trespassed against us.
The number seven in biblical terms means fullness. Thus, seventy times seven means that we are to be willing forgive forever. This truly shows the extent of God’s love for us and the extent that we must be willing to love the sinner. Saint Nikolaj Velimirovic says “He who has no patience with us when we sin does not love us” to illustrate the importance of patience. He further states “Patience, forgiveness and joy are the three greatest characteristics of divine love…..Without these three characteristics love is not love. If you give the name love to anything else, it is as though you were giving the name sheep to a goat or a pig.”
So my dear brothers and sisters in Christ my prayer for you is that that you may love your fellow man with patience and for give his trespasses as you ask your heavenly Father to forgive your trespasses.
Delivered by Fr. Milan Medakovic at Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church on the 11th Sunday after Pentecost 2009.