There are times when the scripture translations we hear at Mass are not as accurate as I would like them to be.  That’s always a possibility when you are translating from Aramaic, likely the everyday language of Jesus, into Greek, the language of the New Testament, into English.  Well the Gospel this past weekend was one of those passages which is not as nearly as dramatic in English as it is in the original language.

Jesus says we must be willing to forgive our brother or sister “seventy-seven” times as a way of reflecting the mercy God has poured forth upon us.  To illustrate this mercy Our Lord proposes the parable of the unjust servant.  Owing his Lord a large amount, the unjust servant pleads for mercy and receives it, but this same servant is unwilling to extend that same gift of mercy to a fellow servant who owed a much smaller amount.  This is where the translation is lacking.  The actual amount of money owed by the unjust servant would better be translated as billions of dollars.  There is no way the unjust servant would be able to pay this back.  Hence the mercy of the king is even more profound because the amount owed is so large.  This is the image of God’s mercy towards us.  No matter how grave the sin, no matter how numerous the times we fall, God will be willing to forgive us through Christ His Son.

This more accurate rendering of the amount owed also makes the unjust servant’s unwillingness to extend forgiveness to his fellow servant who owed a few thousands of dollars, more significant.  His hard heartedness towards his fellow servant is an image of a person who having been forgiven by God for a grave sin, is unwilling to forgive someone for a minor slight.

The parable is a stark reminder that unless we can forgive others, God’s forgiveness cannot be guaranteed.  If we are unwilling to let go of past hurts, minor or major, then we risk losing out on God’s mercy.

Even if we may not feel like forgiving, even if our hearts a still broken by those who have hurt us in word or action, we need to pray for the grace to forgive them.  We may not be able to get rid of all the hard feelings and pain that was caused, but if we have made the decision to forgive, then we will be able to receive the forgiveness and healing God desires for all of us.

Stay well and God bless,

Msgr. John J. McDermott

Vicar General