There are many parables in the gospels but only a relatively small number are set by the Fathers to be read as the Gospel for Sunday. This means that when one is set we should take trouble to understand what the Lord is saying to us. The parable today has always been understood as an allegory. It is a story that tells us a truth and that truth concerns true forgiveness.
So, by the King in the parable we are to understand God. He decides ”to settle accounts”, meaning some form judgement. He identifies one of his servants who owes him a very great deal of money – ten thousand talents is an enormous sum. As servant cannot pay he, along with all his family, will be sold into slavery in order to redeem part of the debt. The point here underlines just how serious the debt is,affecting not only the servant,but also his wife and children. The servant begged for mercy and we are told that the King was “moved to compassion,released him and forgave him the debt”. So, although the servant offered to pay,he was entirely forgiven the debt. And here we are to understand the great dept we have to God,the vast amount of things that we him yet do little or nothing to redeem our debts. Yet God, has compassion for us and forgives us all the debt. But this forgiveness requires something from us.
The servant goes out and finds his fellow servant who owes him a small debt and treats him badly. He attempts to extort the money from him by throwing him into prison. He did not have a compassion for his fellow servant and did not fellow the example of his master, the King, at all. However,other servants tell the King what has happened. The church Fathers here suggest that these servants are the angels who are always watching us and are alert to what we are doing. The King reacts angrily and hands the wicked servant over to “the torturers” until he pays all that he owes. And what we deserve if we have lost “the mind of Christ” and fallen away from His commandments.
However,the reality is that when we have been wronged by someone else,and it may be very bad wrong,it is in fact difficult to forgive them. It is easy to say “I forgive you”. It is very different matter to actually mean what we say. The parable then gives us two guides as to how we go about forgiving. The first is that we must have self-knowledge. We must actually accept that we are not perfect. We have wronged others and we are in as much need of forgiveness as everyone else. The second thing is that we must pray that our hearts are softened so that we too may learn and exercise the compassion that is shown to us by God.
“Some think that the Old Testament is stricter than the New, but they judge wrongly ; they are fooling themselves. The old law did not punish the desire to hold onto wealth; it punished theft. But now rich man is not condemned for talking the property of others;rather he is condemned for not giving his own property away”. (st Gregory the Great).
Reference: Bulletin of spiritual edification, Ecumenical Patriarchate Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain, Mode No. 1555