Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent
Forgiveness: A Radical Commandment
Jesus teaches through the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant that we must forgive all forms of wrongdoing aimed against us and to forgive as often as the occasion arises. This is a radical teaching.
The Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen addresses the topic of forgiveness in his presentation The Seven Riddles of Life in which he provides two reasons for why we should forgive others, especially those who are our enemies. Sheen presents:
First, because God has forgiven us greater sins than our enemies have ever committed against us…
The second reason for forgiving is to prevent the multiplication of hate, which is a seed and grows like a weed.
Sheen’s two reasons for forgiving others can be gleaned from today’s Gospel reading. Jesus tells us of a King that forgives a debt owed to him. In fact, Jesus makes the point to emphasize that the debt was a “huge amount” and that it was impossible for the debtor to repay it.
The Gospel, in this instance, supports Sheen’s first reason for why we should forgive others. Mankind, through the actions of Adam and Eve, inherited an unpayable debt which separated us from God and could never be repaid through our own human power. Only God Himself has the power to pardon our transgressions and, fortunately for us, He did so. Our Lord, while hanging from the cross stated: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
The second reason for why we should forgive is also gleaned from this parable. The King was informed of the forgiven-debtor’s callousness toward another servant who owed him a minor debt. Rebuking him for his wayward actions, the King said to this unmerciful servant, “I forgave you your entire debt ... Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?” He makes it clear: To not forgive others when we ourselves have received forgiveness is to violate a divine directive and warrants strict judgment from God. Jesus completes his story with a stern warning:
“Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”
Jesus, in this parable points out that forgiveness, once received must also be given to others. In an age where popular culture encourages division, prejudice, and hate we are called to overcome these deeply divisive tendencies through radical Christian patience, understanding, and forgiveness.
Student, School of Law