Today, on the eleventh Sunday of Matthew, Jesus continues to teach us what life is like in the Kingdom of God. In a challenging parable on forgiveness, He tells us about a servant who was forgiven a large debt by a king. However, this same servant refused to forgive another servant a much smaller debt, which consequently angered the king who had him arrested again. In this way, Jesus warns us what will happen to us if we do not forgive those who wrong us.
Here we see that forgiveness essential to our Christian faith. On the one hand, we receive forgiveness from God. But, on the other hand, this is unavoidably bound up with how we treat our brothers and sisters. In several other places in the Gospels, Jesus gives us fundamentally the same message: If we do not forgive others, then God will not forgive us. Forgiveness is both a free gift, yet it also demands everything that we have. As Saint Cyprian of Carthage tells us, “There remains no ground of excuse in the day of judgment, when you will be judged according to your own sentence; and whatever you have done, that you also will suffer.”
We all know that forgiveness is no easy matter. It is not simply a matter of saying the words, or putting up with people. True forgiveness occurs in the heart, and sometimes our hearts require a lifetime of learning to forgive. Forgiveness means learning to have empathy for other people, learning to see the various factors that made them who they are, learning to understand why they act as they do. It means laying aside our own judgments and learning to see them as God does.
After all, God forgives us because of the way He looks at us. He views us with eyes of compassion. He sees not so much our sins, but people who are created in His Image. And He calls us to look at other people in the same way.