Sermon: 11th Sunday of Matthew

11th Sunday of Matthew

Matthew 18:23-35

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

What does it mean to forgive? To be forgiven? Are we merely following a moral code of conduct, or is there something more profound and mysterious?

In today’s Gospel narrative we are reminded of the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant. The servant who had an enormous debt was freed from his debt. This same servant, however, having met his fellow servant, who owed him a very small and insignificant amount, was unforgiving, and instead of being mindful of his master’s love and to show compassion, he chose another path; and he had him incarcerated and forgot his master’s love.

This is unfortunately one of our stumblings: being forgetful of God’s forgiveness. God’s forgiveness is unconditional, selfless, and it this unconditional love that we are aspiring to mirror in our lives. Not simply because we’re following, as I said, a moral code of conduct, but out of gratitude for the Lord’s forgiveness and love. His forgiveness is his way of love. Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” and his way is through forgiveness, which defines the innermost essence of divine being. As Christians we believe that divine being is love unconditional, love unimaginable, relational love where one person exists on account of the other: one freely gives and one freely receives. And it is this that constitutes oneness of being. His way is through forgiveness, it is the way of the Kingdom of God. “The Kingdom of God”, we heard today in the parable, “is likened unto a man who was a king”. Jesus spoke this parable and likened the Kingdom of Heaven to the notion of forgiveness.

Let us learn from this story, and let us affirm our faith through forgiveness each time we are challenged by others. Let us also be mindful of the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. God’s forgiveness is freely given, but it cannot reach us if we lack compassion, if we remain unforgiving. This is also the message conveyed at the end of today’s Gospel. Jesus said, “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses”.

Let us also be mindful of the enormous debt we have been freed from. In this context, whether the word used is debt, loan, mistake, weakness, sin, it is one and the same. Language, in this case, is relative. It is the meaning which lies behind the words which matters. We all have this in common. No one is exempt. Whether or not we are referring to our own personal mistakes, or the consequences of the mistakes of others — which we all share and which we, in theological language, call the Fall of Man — the reality is that we are all sharers of this enormous burden. However — and I’ll finish here — our Lord has freed us from this burden through his sacrificial love. Our gratitude should therefore reflect the measure of his love. So, how do we choose? What example do we follow? The way of the unmerciful servant or the way of our master?


Archimandrite Chrysostomos Michaelides