On the 11th Sunday after Pentecost we hear a parable in which the kingdom of heaven is described as a king who wants to settle accounts with his servants. When one of the servants approaches the King he is unable to pay his debt. Falling down before the king he begs for mercy saying “Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all”. Having compassion the king released him from all his debt obligations. Unfortunately, this servant did not show compassion to his own servants. Finding one of them, he demanded that he be re-paid one-hundred denarii that was owed him. This servant unable to pay fell before him and begged for patience and mercy.Unmoved this master who just moments before was released from his debt by the king, threw his servant into prison. The king learning of these events scolds the servant saying “'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 'Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.” (Mt. 18:32-34). In the end of the parable Christ gives us a stark warning saying: “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” (Mt.18:35).
According to Blessed Theophylact “the gist of the parable teaches us to forgive our fellow servants who have sinned against us, especially if they fall down before us begging forgiveness”. For us today “our fellow servants” encompasses all those around us, including family, friends and even strangers. Forgiveness in not always an easy act and can be very difficult at times due to our own ego which is caused by our pridefulness. When we are wronged especially by those closest to us we feel that we are right and the other person is wrong. In these situations the demons inflate our ego and begin to whisper excuses of justification as to why we are correct. This can lead us down a very dangerous spiritual path; for our faith does not teach us to be prideful, but to be humble and forgiving. Christ came into this world not with vengeance but with humility and meekness. As a result, He defeated the devil through the ultimate act of humility and that was to be crucified on a Cross. To be true witnesses to the Gospel we as Christians are called to emulate the same humility, meekness, compassion and love that Christ exemplified. St. Paul in his letter to Colossians writes: “ Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. (Col.3:12-13). When we choose not to forgive one another we begin to depart from God and His divine grace departs from us. Blessed Theophylact states: “the one who lacks compassion is not he who remains in God, but rather he who departs from God and is a stranger to Him”. When we lack the ability to forgive others in our lives our hearts become cold. We begin to feel animosity for the other person which can lead to resentment and resentment can eventually lead to hate and hate in turn can be considered as spiritual murder. In the end these negative emotions that stem from the result of being uncompassionate and unforgiving will lead us not to a spiritual life or an eventual eternal life with Christ, but to a union with the devil and eventual eternal hell. It is therefore important that once someone feels they have been wronged even if the other party is right is to ask forgiveness. In this way the demonic forces that will try to fuel the fire within our souls and minds of justification, pridefulness and egotism will flee immediately and in its place peace, love and not hate will fill our hearts and our spiritual relationship with Christ will continue to be in the proper balance. As St. Paul states: “But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” (Col.3:14-15).
Forgiveness is so emphasized by the teaching of our faith and is such an essential element to our salvation and to our life as Christians, that without genuine forgiveness not only from the mind but from the heart all other Christian elements of our spiritual life such as almsgiving, prayer, participation in the liturgical and sacramental services of the Church will be in vain. An example of how forgiveness is emphasized by the teaching of our faith and how it is such an essential element of our Christian life can be found through the most commonly recited prayer that we recite almost on a daily basis which is “Our Father”. During this prayer it mentions: “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Therefore, in order for Christ to forgive our sins a pre-requisite is given to us that we must first genuinely forgive others. This theme is further emphasized in Mt. 6:15, which says: “But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
In the end it’s important that as spiritually vigilant Christians being fashioned in the image and likeness of God we not fall into the snares and demonic temptations of not to forgive others, which can eventually lead to unhealthy spiritual emotions or attitudes of egotism, judgmentalness, pridefulness, resentment and hate. To fall into these temptations, it will lead us not to a life with God, but away from God, eventually it will cost us our opportunity to have eternal rest in God’s Kingdom. Rather let us be like the merciful and compassionate king in the parable and let us take heed not to be the uncompassionate, unforgiving servant. As a result, by practicing and learning to be merciful, loving and forgiving to others, especially to those closest to us we can be assured that when our time comes to stand before Christ on the last Day of Judgment, He will be merciful, loving and compassionate to us sinners.
Fr. Victor Wronskyj
Sts. Peter and PaulMission, West Islip, NY