Parable of the Unmerciful Servant – The two logics: the God’s merciful and the man’s calculating.

1. Introductory prayer

Merciful Lord, You forgive me, always. It’s like your fountain of love does not have a n end for me. Well, to each of us you are gracious and forgive us. I am amazed at Your love for me, let alone to others. May my heart be inspired by Your heart and deepen for love for myself and for others.

2. Reading – Listening: The Gospel according to Matthew 18:21-35

The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.

24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold[b] was brought to him.

25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’

27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

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28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins.[c] He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.

31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.

33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’

34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

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3. Thoughts on the Gospel – the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant

Peter, who listened well to Jesus’ speech about the brotherly admonition, has a question: “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? He wonders if there is an end to it. Maybe he thinks he’s already exaggerating when he says: “Up to seven times?” Jesus says to him, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Peter puts a limit, but the Lord knows our human imperfection, so he orders unlimited dismissal.

A little before this passage, the disciples considered who was the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

The biggest one is he who knows how to forgive. How many times do we need God to forgive us, so many times we need to forgive others. Jesus illustrated his doctrine with the passage of the king, who forgave ten thousand talents to his servant, but the servant could not forgive his companion a hundred silver coins.

The difference in debt is one to a million. Here are two logics: the God’s merciful and the man’s calculating. The scene is happening at the court. The king’s servant, today we would say the finance minister, badly handled his finances and was heavily indebted.

The debt is astronomically high. Because he could not pay, the king ordered to sell him, his family, and all his possessions in order to settle the debt.

In reality, the debt was much bigger than the master would get from the sale. Then the servant fell down before him and asked, ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’

The king forgave the servant and forgave him the debt. He did not do this because of the hope that the debt would be settled once, but out of compassion. The servant felt sorry for him.

Even the servant’s hope is not that he will settle the debt, but only in the goodwill of the master. When the servant went out, he met his companion, who owed him a hundred pounds.

The sum is not negligible, but incomparable with ten thousand talents. The servant asked his companion to settle the debt and he asked to endure with him. But he did not want to, but he threw him in jail.

It was unfair, because the debt was not so great that the debtor should be imprisoned. However, here is the fact that the servant tries to imitate the master, although this is not the case. He steps in the position of a judge.

Later, the master harshly seizes the servant to whom was so much forgiven, but he did not want to forgive his comrade, but he even wanted to be a master, a judge. But there is only one judge, all others are servants, comrades. The master got angry and handed him over to the torturers.

He was sorry before, now he was angry at him.

The Lord is merciful, but also demanding. His request is mercy. The anger of God is the other face of God’s mercy. He shows it to those who have already been endowed with mercy, but do not yet understand it, do not live it and do not cultivate it to others.

The meaning of the passage is therefore in God’s mercy, which gives the foundation of brotherly forgiveness: we can forgive others only in the joyful conscience that we received from God an infinitely greater mercy. And vice versa, we can ask the Lord for forgiveness only to the extent that we are willing to forgive our companions.

4. Meditation – thinking

About everything I have read and what has touched me, I am thinking now. I let my thoughts also touch my heart. Think:

  • “Be patient with me says the servant. Where do I want to ask the Lord to endure with me, and that he goes with me step by step so that I can move on?
  • I take time near the Lord and remember the graces that he has already given me in my life. I try to focus on the last period that is still alive in me, and I also remember the small details.
  • In which relationship does God invite me to bring in a touch of forgiveness, according to His example? I give to Christ, what causes pain in me, to put on his side, the pierced side from which blood flows, washing all of us.

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5. Personal Prayer

In the next moments of silence, I talk about of this with Jesus. I tell him what I think, what I feel, what I want. I ask him for the grace that I need for … (make your conversation with God)

6. Contemplation – Quiet moment with God

Now I let silence to be in me. I am simply present in God, as He is quietly present in me.
Perhaps from this silence I hear God’s speech, which invites me perhaps in thanksgiving and worship, or to open myself and accept him in my path life and work, maybe He gives me the courage to continue searching for…

7. Action

When I walk into a personal relationship with God, he changes me, makes me more loving and encourages me to the concrete action, which is….. (write down your insights for concrete action)

8. Prayer at the end

Good Lord, Your mercy is immense, you just give it to me. Thank you. Help me, please, receive Your love, that I can give her further, in everyday life with my brothers and sisters. Let me be open to the streams of forgiveness from Your pierced side, for your forgiveness as acceptance, you forgive all people, and you invite me to do so.

9. Review of my prayer meditation or reflection

This is my view on what was happening in me at the time, I spent praying. In my reflection, I can help myself with the following questions:

  • How was I feeling when I started praying?
  • What happened during the prayer?
  • What feelings and thoughts could I detect in myself?
  • How did I feel at the revelations, which I had during my prayer?
  • What did I learn about myself, about God, about his attitude towards me and others and me to him and others?
  • How did I finish my prayer?
  • What did I receive for my everyday life?
  • In the end, I can write the lessons, findings and insights. I can write also, where I had problems, they may have great value in learning about my relationship and myself with God. They can also help to find a more appropriate way of prayer for me.
  • Then I thank the Holy Trinity. If I pray with my family or in the community, friends, I can share with them what I felt in this prayer. By prayer for one another, you can support yourself throughout the week.

Lectio divina meditations are published and adapted with permission from the Jesuits home –

Let us remain close in the same prayer! May the Lord bless you abundantly!