In today’s Gospel lesson we heard the parable about the merciful king and a merciless servant. Jesus Christ told this parable when Apostle Peter asked the Savior: “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” (Mt. 18:21).
The contents of this parable are simple: the servant in today’s reading failed to measure up to his master’s mercy. He was so deeply indebted to his king that there was no hope at all that he could get rid of his indebtedness. But because of the compassionate love of his king, who took pity on him, he was suddenly and miraculously made free. But when it came to share his great joy with his fellow servant, he could not find in his heart even the smallest particle of mercy or pity. It was for this that he was condemned by the king and thrown into prison as the unmerciful servant. Matthew tells us: “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Mt. 18:35).
In this parable Christ condemns the sin of being unmerciful and resentful. Resentment deprives the Christian the hope of salvation. This is because love is the basis of all Christian laws as well as all evangelical and apostolic teachings. Where is love, there is no malice. Apostle John tells us: “For he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1John 4:20). Our Lord gives us the same message in the Gospel of Matthew: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Math. 6:14-15). How could we expect to receive forgiveness from God if we do not forgive our fellow men?
We often pray to the Lord asking Him for many things, while at the same time our hearts are filled with malice. In our daily prayers we are saying the Lord’s prayer, “Our Father.” In this prayer by saying the words “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” we are presenting ourselves as an example to God and are asking Him to do as we are doing. If our hearts are filled with malice and hatred while we are saying these words from the Lord’s prayer, we are actually offending our Savior. Therefore we should make peace with our neighbor before we can say the Lord’s prayer, “Our Father.”
Therefore let no one have any malice against our neighbor. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Very often we as human beings get angry. Let this anger be short lived. Apostle Paul tells us in his Epistle to Ephesians that if we get angry with neighbor we should make peace before the end of day: “Be angry but do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger.” (Eph. 4:26).
Every one of us should ask the Lord to get rid of malice and hatred for our fellow men from our hearts, remembering the words of our Savior: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you” (Math. 6:14). Amen.
Fr. Yuriy Bazylevsky
St. Volodymyr Chapel, Kerhonkson, NY