Jesus taught his disciples to forgive one another. Peter wanted to set a limit to the forgiveness that the Lord was asking for. Surely seven times was enough? No, said Jesus – you must forgive your brother or sister seventy-seven times. He amplified his teaching with a parable. The servant owed the king ten thousand silver talents – an impossible amount of money – millions of pounds, in our terms. He had no hope at all of repaying his debt, so the king had mercy on him. But, having just been forgiven, the man showed no mercy at all to a fellow servant who owed him a trivial amount. Instead, he was angry and vengeful.
We can never deserve God’s mercy. Like the king in the parable, God forgives our sin freely. When we repent, God cancels the debt that we can’t pay, simply out of love and compassion. In the words of Pope Francis in his letter Evangeli Gaudium, ‘Those who accept Jesus’s offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness.’ There is no limit to the mercy of God.
Having received God’s mercy, how can we possibly refuse to forgive one another? Knowing that we are sinners ourselves, how can we judge our fellow men and women for their sins? The only way to respond to God’s mercy is to show mercy to our brothers and sisters. This is what Jesus calls us to do.