Father Joseph V. Corpora, CSC | September 29, 2017
Two core things about my life enable me to understand the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant, the story in Matthew’s Gospel about the king who forgives his servant an enormous debt, only to see that same servant hold a fellow servant accountable for a modest one.
The first thing is that I am a priest. Being a priest does not give me superior intelligence, that’s for sure. Rather, in my case, it means that I have heard thousands of confessions over the past 33 years. And I am often sad because people really don’t think that God has forgiven them their sins. Not the abortion, the addiction to pornography, the pre-marital sex, the stealing; not the adultery, the cheating on a test, the divorce, the gossip that damages someone’s reputation.
I could go on and on. And while I certainly do not want to make light of anyone’s sins, I would also not want anyone to make them bigger than God’s mercy. Often people imagine their sins are so big that God can’t or won’t forgive them. But the truth is that God forgives everything, all the time. All our sins and failings, all our transgressions and faults, melt before God’s mercy.
In this parable we learn first about a king who forgives everything and then about a man who can’t forgive anything. The debt the first servant owes his master, the king, is overwhelming. Since it would be impossible for the servant to pay it off, the king does not even consider asking for repayment. What’s more, he listens to his servant’s impossible promise to pay, believes his sincerity and writes off the debt altogether. The servant’s plea for forgiveness is met with extraordinary mercy.
Then comes the dark side of the story. Seeming to have learned nothing from this incredible experience of mercy, the servant goes out and takes full vengeance on another servant who owes him a much smaller sum than the king had forgiven him. His experience of being forgiven, it seems, has not brought about a change of heart.