The word ‘forgive’ means to stop being angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake. But it seems like this is far to simple a definition … There seems to be a deeper meaning at stake. Lets take the word and break it up … ‘for’ – a term used to indicate a place someone or something is moving toward or the person or thing that something is sent or given to … ‘give’ is to allow someone to have, to hand over possession of … Now the question arises – what exactly is being sent to another person? What are we allowing another person to have?
Understanding the parable in today’s Gospel will help us to understand the real meaning of forgiveness. The debtor owes a huge amount … in the Greek language the term used is a “myriad of talents”. Now a ‘myriad’ is the largest number in Greek, equaling 10,000. A talent is worth roughly 6,000 denarii – the largest monetary unit, worth a days wage … so what He is saying sounds like this guy owes an infinity worth of money … How the king responds gives us the answer to our question on the real definition of forgiveness … The king, moved with compassion – or pity, mercy – he pardoned the servant … What exactly did the king give to his servant … what did he allow the man to have? He imparted to him something of his own goodness … he conferred goodness on him … that is precisely the answer to our question on what it means to forgive. Forgiveness is equal to love – to forgive is to impart to another the goodness that comes from the heart, the inner place of freedom … that does not neglect the commandments nor the teachings of our Church, rather stands firmly in them so as not to endorse sinful, destructive behavior yet looks into the eyes of the soul to get a glimpse of a human being in need of love … but perhaps also in need of someone to show him or her what authentic goodness looks like … that which is right, true and good. That person perhaps needs to see God and is looking to you and to me… To act with mercy, to act with love – first is not passive, it is entirely active – is to act in a God-like manner.
Two things come to mind when reflecting on acting in this way … Firstly, lets not pretend to act in a God-like manner if we are not asking for pardon for our own sins. If we are not going to confession, the harder it is for us to extend any sort of forgiveness, any sort of real, authentic love to our neighbor … Jesus makes that clear in the second part of the parable … forgiveness bestowed to us must be passed to others – but we first have to learn to approach Him in humility, to let go of things we hold on to and with a genuine sense of remorse … it is not enough to simple express our sorrow for sin in our own way, in our own words – we must go to Him, go to the priest … we must be courageous enough to own up to our own wrongdoings … Second, forgiveness must NOT be confused with weakness … to ask for mercy in the confessional and to forgive one another, to love in an authentic manner is not weak but rather a sign of great strength, a sign of strong moral conviction … forgiveness calls out the evil and saves the soul. For mercy, as it is proper to the nature and character of God, shows His divine power… so when we ask for mercy, God shows us His divine power … when we act with mercy, with love to one another – especially in acts of forgiveness for wrongdoing – we make God known …
Lets remember that this is not a rosy feeling … it’s a sacrifice – the greatest act of mercy was Christ’s death on the cross – it may hurt but it is a sign of love … Thus what do we give to others when we ‘forgive’ … we impart to them something of our own character of goodness … we give them the goodness and love of God.