In today’s Gospel reading from Matthew, we find the familiar story of the slave who pleads with his master to forgive a debt that he cannot pay. Moved by the slave’s plea, the master has pity on him and forgives the debt. And, then, the slave encounters another slave who owes him a debt and pleads to be forgiven it. This plea falls on deaf ears and the creditor slave has the debtor slave thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. Hearing of this from the other slaves, the master is rightly outraged, declaring, “’You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in his anger, his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
This passage calls to mind for me another Gospel passage, the one where the rich man asks Jesus what else, besides keeping the commandments, he can do to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. When he is told by Jesus to give away all of his possessions and then follow him, the Gospel says that the rich man “went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”
To me at least, and I suspect that I am not alone in this, the very hardest thing about truly following Christ – and there are many hard things about it – is forgiving those whom we believe have wronged us deeply. To me, it is even harder than giving away all possessions, as hard as that would be.
And note that Jesus says that we must not only forgive those who have wronged us, but we must do so “from your heart.” So we must not only say that we forgive, which is hard enough; but God requires us to really mean it and live it.
In coming down from Heaven and taking upon himself human form, subjecting himself to all the daily trials and tribulations of human life, and, ultimately, sacrificing himself on the cross, God forgave humankind all its sin from the dawn of creation. God did so not only from his lips, but from the heart. If, then, God can so forgive us our sin against him, we surely can forgive others’ sins against us.
Links to the appointed readings and prayer for today: