On the Unmerciful Servant in the Gospel for To-day.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
On the Unmerciful Servant in the Gospel for To-day.
We are told that Peter put this question to our Lord: “Lord, how often shall my brother offend against me and I forgive him? till seven times?” (St. Matt, xviii. 21.) That appeared to the apostle to be going as far as possible in the way of conciliation. Our Lord viewed it otherwise. He was not satisfied with forgiving seven times only, He required it to be till seventy times seven; and in order to make this sublime precept of Christianity intelligible to the disciples, He related to them the parable of the unmerciful servant. Listen to this parable as it comes from our Lord’s lips, and meditate upon it.
1st. Consider the magnitude of the debt owed by the servant. The Evangelist says: “The kingdom of Heaven is likened unto a king who would take an account of his servants. And when he had begun to take the account one was brought to him that owed him ten thousand talents.” (v. 23, 24.) The Jewish talent was equal to about nineteen hundred dollars of our money (this was written in 1900 so multiply the 1900 $1 by $24 to get the amount in 2013 – $45,600), and the servant owed ten thousand of those talents (in 2013 $’s – $456,000,000). You are amazed at the enormous amount of that servant’s debt, but you do not think how your own debt is mounting up. You have lived twenty or thirty years perhaps, or even sixty or eighty. You can count the years of your age, but are you able to count up the thoughts and words of one single year? Yet according to our Lord’s own dictum you will have to give an account of every word. Can you reckon up the good inspirations, the graces you have received in the course of one year only? Yet you will have to give an account of all those graces. Every moment of your life is a gift from God; how many of those gifts have you misused by employing them in the service of sin, by living in sin? If you have to give an account of all this to your Lord, will your debt be found to be much less than that of the servant in the parable? And shall you be much better off than he was, since our Lord proceeds to say that “he had not wherewith to pay”? Have you anything wherewith to pay? Do not all that you are, all that you have, your body and soul, your goods and chattels already belong to God, independently of this debt? O miserable man! Nothing remains to you but to fall on your knees like the servant in the Gospel and implore the Lord: “Have patience with me.” How many times have you already proffered that petition, and how often has it been true of you what Jesus says: “The lord of that servant being moved with pity, let him go and forgave him that debt.” (v. 27.) But you continue to contract fresh debts, forgetting that even God’s mercy and patience will come to an end at last.
2d. Consider the extreme unmercifulness of the servant. “But when that servant was gone out, he found one of his fellow servants that owed him an hundred pence; and laying hold of him, he throttled him, saying: Pay me what thou owest. And his fellow servant falling down besought him, saying: Have patience with me and I will pay thee all. And he would not, but went and cast him into prison till he paid the debt.” (v. 28- 30.) Represent to yourself once again the unmerciful servant when, trembling and quaking with apprehension, he is on his knees before his master, beseeching him to have patience for the payment of the enormous debt, and then behold that same servant face to face with his debtor. You will be roused to anger and indignation at such an excessive want of compassion. His conduct will appear incomprehensible, almost incredible in your eyes. And yet, perhaps, you greatly resemble that servant. How often in the Sacrament of Penance you have prayed: Lord have patience with me! And the Lord has had compassion, and forgiven you all your debt. But alas! when you go forth from the presence of that merciful Lord, when you leave the confessional, when you rise up from the holy table, there meets you a fellow servant, one who has done you a slight wrong, who has said a few thoughtless words about you, who has committed some unkind act in your regard. What is his debt compared with yours? What are a hundred pence not as much as twenty dollars compared with ten thousand talents? What is it to offend a man, a sinner, compared with offending, as you have done, the triune God? And yet while the Creator of Heaven and earth forgives you, who are but dust and ashes, all your debt, and by His kindness preserves you from the eternal prison of hell, you lay hands on your debtor, you throttle him, not indeed with your hands, but with your tongue and in your heart. You demand complete compensation, a humble apology, and God knows what else, otherwise you will not forgive him! Are you not ashamed of showing indignation at the unmerciful servant in the Gospel? Ought you not rather to lay to heart the words our Lord added: “Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all the debt because thou besoughtest Me; shouldst not thou then have had compassion also on thy fellow servant, even as I had compassion on thee?” (v. 32, 33.)
3d. Consider the punishment of the unmerciful servant. The Evangelist tells us: “And his lord being angry delivered him to the torturers until he paid all his debt.” (v. 34.) The unfortunate man had already obtained forgiveness, he had received remission of all his debt, and now he had lost all through his love of revenge. His own unmercifulness was the means of casting him into the self-same prison from which his lord’s mercifulness had kept him. Weigh this well, my soul. No forgiveness, no absolution, no sacrifice, no prayer avails you aught as long as you cherish enmity and revenge in your heart. He who will not forgive shall not be forgiven. He who is unmerciful like the wicked servant, shall be punished as he was. Hence the Apostle admonishes us: “Let all bitterness and anger and indignation and clamor and blasphemy be put away from you, with all malice. And be ye kind one to another; merciful, forgiving one another, even as God hath forgiven you in Christ.” (Eph. iv. 32.) Delay not a single day to follow the apostolic admonition; follow it even in trifles, such as are called antipathies or susceptibilities, for your spiritual progress depends to no small extent on this. Nay more, listen to what St. Basil says on this subject: Just as no one ought to entertain a strong predilection for one individual, because that is apt to have undesirable results, so it is not right to allow oneself to take a great dislike to any one, as that, too, may be productive of the worst consequences. For as Christ requires us to love the Brethren as a mark of being His disciples, it follows as a matter of course that those who do not love their Brethren are not the disciples of Christ, are not true Religious.
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)
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