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Square Zero

Forgive Us Our Debts

Posted by Eric (March 21, 2006 at 5:54 pm)

The unforgiving servantThis morning I walked down the block to the local Latin Rite church for Mass and Confession. The Gospel for today was Matthew 18:21-35, the parable of the unforgiving servant.

I wonder why the servant whose massive debt was forgiven was so ready to demand repayment of the debt he was owed by his fellow servant. I would think he’d be walking on air after his interview with the master, whose mercy gave him a new lease on life. But he’s not—somehow, his heart is full of bitterness.

I’d like to speculate that unforgiving servant, far from being filled with gratitude that his debt was forgiven, was filled instead with humiliation at having had to beg for mercy from his master. Perhaps his motive in demanding repayment of his fellow servant’s debt was to effect a plan of repaying the master after all.

This reading at least seems possible from the text, and I think it’s more satisfying than simply crediting the unforgiving servant with a kind of generic hardness of heart. Moreover, it corresponds to our own struggles with mercy.

Do we really believe that we are forgiven, that our transgressions have been blotted out? Or do we resist God’s mercy? And do we not then take out this sense of shame, unworthiness, and doubt upon others?

Are we unforgiving, because we do not really believe that we have first been forgiven?

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