Twenty-First Sunday After Pentecost – The Unforgiving Servant of The King
Gospel Matt, xviii. 23-35– At that time Jesus spoke to his disciples this parable: The kingdom of heaven is likened to a king who would take an account of his servants. And when he had begun to take the account, one was brought to him that owed him ten thousand talents. And as he had not wherewith to pay it, his lord commanded that he should be sold, and his wife and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. But that servant falling down, besought him, saying: Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And the lord of that servant, being moved with pity, let him go, and forgave him the debt. But when that servant was gone out, he found one of his fellow-servants that owed him a hundred pence: and laying hold on him, he throttled him, saying: Pay what thou owest. And his fellow-servant, falling down, besought him, saying: Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he paid the debt. Now his fellow-servants, seeing what was done, were very much grieved, and they came and told their lord all that was done. Then his lord called him: and said to him: Thou wicked servant, I for gave thee all the debt, because thou besoughtest me: shouldst not thou then have had compassion also on thy fellow-servant, even as I had compassion on thee? And his lord being angry, delivered him to the torturers until he paid all the debt. So also shall my heavenly Father do to you, if you forgive not everyone his brother from your hearts.
The Unforgiving Servant of The King
Every rational creature has to give an account of his actions for the time that he is on probation. We human beings are in this world on probation, and when this life is over we have to show God and the angels of heaven that we have lived commendable lives. To prove this Our Lord spoke this parable. Ten thousand talents were given to a servant by his master, that he might make use of them: he could buy, or sell, or lay out the money in speculation in any way he pleased. In the course of time, he forgot that he was a servant, and had to give an account of all his operations. The youth of our day live on in a similar way; they use their youth, their body, their time and their faculties as if they were absolute masters of them, and had not to give an account to God. Sometimes, by the mercy of God, they recognize the fact that they are burdened with a tremendous debt which they cannot pay off; that they have squandered the talents that were given them; for, remember, all have talents, and all have to make return for the outlay.
In the case of the servant mentioned in the Gospel there was no return: what could the poor miserable man do but fall down before his creditor, acknowledge the debt, and beg forgiveness of him who is so rich that he will not feel the loss of ten thousand talents. “Have patience with me,” give me another chance, advance more talents for my use, and you will see that I shall do better. I will repay the debt, and besides show a great gain. 0, my dear friends, how serious a tiling life is! What are your obligations? What talents have you received? You are preparing for your first communion, or for Confirmation and you are doing so honestly and piously; you go on retreat, review your whole life, and make a general confession. With tears you acknowledge that you have offended God grievously, but God has forgiven you, and the memory of your offences is blotted out. With a light heart, thankful that you escaped so easily, you go forth to your accustomed duties in the world where you meet many fellow-servants that serve the great Master and serve one another too. You meet there one who owes you a few pennies, who has offended you but slightly, and you get very angry at his carelessness in not returning what he borrowed; you take him by the throat as if you would choke him; he begs you to have patience with him, using almost the same words as you did to God. But you demand immediate payment, and as he cannot comply with your demand, you have him cast into prison.
Many have obtained the pardon of their sins and are freed from their debts by the great Owner of all things; they have been on the point of receiving just punishment, but by their prayers and promises of doing better they get a respite. Perverse beings that they are, they do wrong again; they are no better, they again commit the very sins for which they were called to account, the sins which have been pardoned.
At the encounter of the two servants mentioned in the Gospel, where one treated the other most unmercifully, there were present several witnesses, who reported the case to the king. The king reversed the sentence against the debtor of ten thousand talents, and inflicted on him the same punishment which he had meted out to his fellow-servant. The conclusion which Our Lord Himself drew from this parable was, that His heavenly Father would do in a like manner to everyone who did not forgive his brother from his heart. Let us here reflect on our unwillingness to pardon the faults of others. Remember that you will not obtain forgiveness of your sins unless you sincerely forgive your neighbor. Before asking the forgiveness of our own faults, let us fully pardon our neighbor, and not keep anything in our heart against him. Nay, you must do even more if you would follow out the mandates of Our Lord, for He has said, “Love your enemies; do good to them that hate you”
In the king who forgave his servant that enormous sum of money, we recognize the infinite mercy and kindness of God; where the king inflicts great punishment on his servant for his cruelty, we see the justice of God. Would that we understood the just vengeance of God on those who abuse His goodness. Knowing His infinite mercy do we not frequently commit sin the more easily, in the expectation of being forgiven in the sacrament of confession? You confess every month, but still the same sins are told; promises are made, but you fall again into the same grievous faults. You mock the justice of God, and pretend to be sorry, and then multiply the number of the same sins. You may say that you are weak, human creatures and that in spite of all your good resolutions you fall again and again. Yes, you are weak, because you are slaves to certain sins; you are weak because you do not guard your eyes; you are weak because you do not avoid the occasions of sin. Just there lies your weakness. With the grace of God, you could be strong; stronger than your passions: you would also be made stronger by prayer, and by going to the sacraments more frequently.
St. Anthony the abbot once saw a whole legion of devils advancing upon him to frighten him by its numbers. “Why,” asked he, “do you come in such crowds against a poor, miserable man, when one of you could easily overcome him? All the powers of hell cannot affect me in the least if I am fortified by the grace of God; therefore, I fear you not, because I know that the Lord will fight my battles for me; I despise you all.” And with his staff he drove the infernal multitude away.
St. Teresa, inspired by divine love, used to say: “I feel no fear when I can say, ‘My God, my God, I am afraid.’” When St. Martin was on his death-bed, the devil appeared to him. “What are you doing here, impure beast?” asked the saint. “You will find nothing in me that belongs to me; the bosom of Abraham will be my resting-place.” This is the way to be strong: strong in the confidence and help of almighty God.
My dear young friends, how great are our debts to almighty God! Many of us can say, “So young, and still so great a sinner!” What a tremendous debt does that young person owe to almighty God, who curses, steals, and is disobedient; who drinks to excess and commits shameful crimes. Full of confusion for the debt which you have contracted, beg that you may be spared until the whole be paid; but be sure not to burden your soul again, as God is not only good and merciful, but He is also just. St. Augustine says that God’s forgiveness is limited. Judas publicly confessed his sin of betraying Our Lord, saying, “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.” He carried back to the high priest the money he had received for the vile act, and falling into despair, went and hanged himself.
Now is the time of your salvation. If your sins be as numerous as the sands on the seashore God is willing to forgive you. Who knows whether God will forgive your future sins? How many are now in hell who committed only one mortal sin! There is a story told of a young man who lived an angelic life. But one day he heard one of his companions tell of a shameful sin and he felt a desire to commit it at the first opportunity that presented itself; that night in his sleep he burst a blood-vessel and died. His confessor consoled the father of the boy, and told him he need have no fear, for the young man had led such a good life that he was sure he had gone straight to heaven. The following night the soul of the youth appeared to his confessor, and said, “Do not pray for me, for I am damned; your prayers avail me nothing.” “How is that?” asked the priest. “I went regularly to confession,” he answered, “but the day before yesterday, I consented in my mind to a revolting sin, and resolved to commit it at the first opportunity. For that one sin I am in hell.” Whether this ever happened cannot be proven, but the principles of the condemnation are correct. Let the sins of the past be enough for us, that past life so badly spent! It is time that we stopped the insults we have heaped on God’s majesty. Let us say with St. Margaret of Cortona: “My Jesus, I have committed up to this time sins enough; give me the grace here after never to commit any more.”
Thus the great King, our God, whose servants we are, will pardon us our faults when He asks us in the confessional for an accounting. He will forget what we owe Him, and will still consider us His faithful servants. And at the great judgment He will ratify His decision and will bring us to our heavenly reward.