Shouldst not thou then have had compassion on thy fellow-servant, even as I had compassion on thee (Matthew, 18:33)
These words of today’s Gospel are spoken by our Lord to everyone who has been wanting in charity to his neighbor. Each one of us, as a servant of God, as a steward of the gifts, both temporal and spiritual, which he has entrusted to us that we may use them for the furtherance of his honor and glory, is a heavy debtor to the divine justice. But his mercy and love are always ready to temper his justice, if only we show the proper dispositions, if only we bend our rebellious wills to the condition he requires of us, without which it is impossible for us to obtain forgiveness.
This condition is found in the oft-repeated but little thought of petition of the Lord’s Prayer : “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass jigainst us.” The servant in the parable received forgiveness from his lord for the sum of ten thousand talents (a very large sum of money), yet he was unmerciful to his fellow-servant, who owed him a hundred pence. The difference between these sums is by no means so great as the difference between our offences against Almighty God and those of onr brethren against us. If we could only realize who it is that we have offended, and then reflect as well upon our ingratitude in offending him, as upon the innumerable benefits he has showered upon us, we might form some faint idea of the gravity of our sin, and of the immense debt that we owe to his justice. We could not then refuse forgiveness to our neighbor for the trifling, and perhaps merely fancied, injuries that we may have suffered from him. “With what measure you shall mete, it shall be measured to you again.” “If you forgive not every one his brother from your hearts,” you cannot hope for pardon from God.”
How, then, can we best practise this forgiveness which is so necessary for us? In the first place, it must be earnest and sincere forgiveness. It must be “from your hearts,” as our Lord says. No mere outward show of forgiveness will be enough, for God sees the heart, and no appearances will satisfy him. But, on the other hand, the forgiveness will not be real and earnest unless it be shown outwardly. Many profess their willingness to forgive who yet show resentment and a spirit of revenge in many little ways, by looks, words, and actions which prove that there
is no real forgiveness in the heart. Then again we find persons who, when they are urged to forgive some wrong, answer: “Well, father, I suppose I must forgive, if you tell me so.” It is plain that this is but a very unwilling and faint-hearted forgiveness, which, will not answer before God. Why will not the generosity of God towards us lead us to show a like spirit towards our brethren?
We should strive to forgive offences the moment they are committed against us. Our natural impulse when any insult is offered to us is to resent it at once, and pay back in the same coin. How different is this from the example set us by our Lord, ” Who, when he was reviled, did not revile; when he suffered, he threatened not.” We should check the first uprisings of resentment, and keep back the angry reply, in imitation of our Blessed Lord’s silence before his accusers and tormentors. By the practice of this Christian silence many a feud of long continuance would be prevented.
We must also “lay aside all malice,” and be ready, when an injury has been done, to be reconciled with our offending brother. This is often very hard for us to do, and very repugnant to our natural inclinations, but it is, nevertheless, absolutely necessary. If we bear malice towards anyone, we are not worthy of the name of Christians, or followers of Christ.
Try, then, to put in practice the teaching of this day’s Gospel, and forgive from your heart those who have offended you, showing your forgiveness by your words and acts. There is nothing more scandalous and injurious to the Christian name than constant quarrels and long-continued animosities between those who go regularly to the sacraments. Follow, then, the injunction of St. Paul : “Let all bitterness, and anger, and indignation, and clamor, and blasphemy be taken away from you, with all malice. And be ye kind to one another, merciful, forgiving one another, even as God has forgiven you in Christ.”
An Excerpt From :
Priests of the Congregation of St. Paul. Five Minute Sermons for Low Masses on All Sundays of the Year. Vol. 2. [S.l.]: Catholic Publication Society, 1886. Print. pg 462-464