After Christ grants the power to forgive sins (“bind and loose”) to the disciples, Peter, continuing to show why Christ chose him to be the leader of the Church, asks for clarity about the limits of forgiveness; Christ’s reply, “70 times 7”, means unlimited forgiveness. Elsewhere, Christ reveals that a man’s own forgiveness depends on his willingness to forgive (The Lord’s Prayer: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”) and Christ demonstrates the infinite magnitude of forgiveness from the Cross (“Forgive them Father for they do not know what they do”).

Stressing the forgiveness imperative, Christ offers the parable of The Unmerciful Servant. A King (Christ) has riches and power so immeasurable that one of His servants owes Him several billion dollars (10,000 talents in today’s values/200,000 years labor!).  The King’s reckoning of accounts (an allusion to the Judgment) requires that the servant, his whole family and all his possessions must be sold in partial payment of his infinite debt. In desperation, the slave kneels and begs, desperately promising to pay his impossible debt. The King, viscerally moved by the servant’s repentant plea, forgives the servant’s entire debt.

The newly freed servant, forgetting forgiveness, encounters a fellow servant who owes him several thousand dollars (100 denarii/about three months wages). Despite the small level of debt, he chokes the man, demanding payment. The second servant, as did the first, fell to his knees and begged for time to pay his entire debt. Instead of mercy, the first casts the second servant into prison.  Fellow servants report the injustice to the King who confronts the evil servant, rebuking him for his lack of mercy and turning him over to the jailers (literally, “torturers”) until the entire debt is paid, an impossibility (an allusion to the eternal torture of Hell).  Christ confirms: “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

1) In the parable of The Unmerciful Servant, Jesus gives a mysterious “God’s eye” view of God’s infinite Mercy but also His perfect Justice.  Reflect on God’s willingness to forgive the immense sins of repentant sinners and the just punishment unrepentant sinners will face.

2) Through His Catholic Church (CCC 981-987, 2842-2845) Christ will forgive the gravest sin, absolutely (i.e. Absolution) in the Sacrament of Confession. During Lent, conduct a rigorous Examination of Conscience, repent in your heart, go to Confession and experience Christ’s Divine Mercy.

3) Feelings of resentment, anger, disgust, ridicule, condemnation, revenge, etc. are all signs that a man has failed to forgive those who “trespassed against us.” During Lent, reflect upon Forgiveness (CCC 2838-2845) and make a list of those you have not forgiven (even back to childhood), go to the Tabernacle and pray for Christ to send His Holy Spirit to help you forgive your “brothers (and sisters) from your heart.”