Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?”Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made.
So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt.
When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Jesus often speaks of sin as a reality in which the one who sins incurs a debt against the one sinned against. Though we say, “forgive us our trespasses” in the “Our Father,” a better translation would be “forgive us our debts.” In front of God, each of us stands as a huge debtor, and the amazing thing is that God cancels this debt through Christ Jesus. Adrienne von Speyr observes, “we ought to spend our lives wiping away our guilt in the eyes of God, but God not only cancels our debt but also gives us an advance of grace in its stead, and for the rest of our lives we can draw on the surplus.” This surplus of grace invites us to find our joy in forgiving those who have sinned against us, for their debt to us is nothing compared to the debt that God has forgiven us.
Heavenly Father, we are filled with wonder not only that you have forgiven our great debt to you, but even that your Son is grateful to us for allowing him to take away our sins when we confess them to him. We come before you as debtors and you make us co-heirs through your Son. Grant that we might evermore live from your Holy Spirit and so forgive the debts of others as you have forgiven ours, and that in this way might share the inheritance of life with others as you have shared it with us. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
—Fr. Sylvester Tan, SJ