"Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?" (Matt 18:33).
This parable puts in stark contrast God's unconditional love for us and our limited love for one another. It goes to the heart of the challenge of mercy.
Peter had just asked Jesus how many times he had to forgive a brother who has sinned against him. "Seven times?" he asked, the most generous number he could imagine. Jesus shocked him by saying, “No, Peter, 70 times seven! No limit at all, keep showing mercy to those who offend you."
Jesus then tells the parable about the servant who was forgiven a huge debt by his master only to turn around and demand that a fellow servant repay him a small amount or be sent to debtor's prison with his whole family. It is an outrageous act of ingratitude that puts in perspective our reluctance to show mercy compared to God's infinite mercy for us.
God’s name is Mercy, unconditional love for us in our weaknesses and sins. Pope Francis has repeatedly said that God never tires of forgiving us; it is we who tire of asking forgiveness. Our very existence is God’s gift, and as we make our way toward maturity learning by our mistakes and stumbling in and out of sin, God’s patience never abandons us. All God asks of us is that we have the same patience with one another.
The call of Jesus is not to be righteous or perfect by our own measure, but perfect in love as our Heavenly Father is perfect. Even more important than the effect it has on others, forgiveness defines us and makes us holy. This is the joy of the Gospel, for it frees us from the burden of judging others and the fear of being judged ourselves.