We are all sinners. We begin every celebration of Mass by asking God’s mercy. Every time we pray the Our Father, we ask God our Father to forgive our sins. To be a Christian doesn’t mean that we are without sin; it means that we know God will forgive our sins.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples a parable to show them the immensity of God’s mercy. A servant owes the king ten thousand talents – an incredibly large sum of money – millions of pounds, in today’s terms. He has no hope of paying the debt. But when he appeals to the king, he receives mercy; his debt is cancelled and he is set free. We have no hope of paying the debt that we owe to God through our sins, but by God’s mercy, we are set free. Pope Francis has said that God’s mercy is always more than we deserve – and that’s why we call it mercy.
But there is a twist in the tail of the parable. The servant who has received unstinting mercy from the king shows himself to be stingy and unforgiving with a fellow servant, who owes him a small sum. In the Lord’s Prayer, when we ask God to forgive our sins, we go on to say ‘…as we forgive those who sin against us.’ We can’t expect to receive God’s mercy unless we are ready to forgive one another. The generous mercy of God challenges us to show a generous spirit to our fellow sinners. If we won’t forgive, we will find ourselves imprisoned by anger and resentment, just like the unforgiving servant in the parable.