HILARY OF POITIERS:
How much more is it necessary, he shows, that pardon be returned by us without measure or number. And we should not think how many times we forgive, but we should cease to be angry with those who sin against us, as often as the occasion for anger exists. Pardon’s frequency shows us that in our case there is never a time for anger, since God pardons us for all sins in their entirety by his gift rather than by our merit. Nor should we be excused from the requirement of giving pardon that number of times [i.e., seventy times seven], since through the grace of the gospel God has granted us pardon without measure.1
Do you see again how generous he was? The servant asked only for an extension of time, but he gave him more than he asked for, remission and forgiveness of the entire debt. He wanted to give him this from the start, but he did not want the giving to be on his side only. He wanted the servant to learn from it and to ask for mercy, in order than he not be under an illusion of innocence. For that the whole was the Lord—even if the servant fell on his knees and implored—is demonstrated by the motive for the remission, for it says, “Out of pity the lord released him.” In this way he also wanted the servant to take some responsibility, to prevent him being too much put to shame, and so that he might learn from his own case and be lenient to his fellow servant, and schooled in his own calamities.2
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA:
The God of all releases us from the difficulties of our faults, according to the parable. This is what is signified by the ten thousand talents. But this happens on the proviso that we ourselves release our fellow servants from the hundred denarii, that is, from the few minor faults they have committed against us. The angels who stand over us and are under the same yoke of service as we are make accusations before God. They do not speak to God as if God does not know—for God knows everything. Rather, in the interest of justice, they demand the proper punishment for those who choose to despise and dishonor the command that we love one another. When we meet our proper deserts, either we receive punishment in our present life, such as being visited with some pain or trouble or infirmity, or if not, we will certainly be punished in the future life. God punishes the obstinate, intractable person with a view to improving and changing him for the better. This is easy to see. Holy Scripture is pertinent here, in these wisely spoken words: “the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son,” and again: “Abide instruction.”3
When Peter asked this, the Lord commanded that the sinning brother should be forgiven not seven times but seventy times seven. He then added a parable, making the comparison of a king and his servant. The servant, though unworthy, had received such mercy from his master that even an immense debt was forgiven him. But he himself refused to show mercy to a fellow servant for his small debt. So, quite rightly, he was handed over to the torturers and received the just punishment of condemnation. For what would such a wicked servant not deserve to suffer? Though he had experienced such pity from his master, he was himself unjust and cruel to his fellow servant. By this example, we are clearly instructed and advised that if we do not forgive our fellow servants—that is, the brothers who sin against us—the debt of their sins, we will be condemned with like punishment. And though the comparison may seem to have been introduced for the present occasion, yet the parable itself has within it an integral logic and manifest truth.4
Casting all these out of his mind in his greed, cruelty and rancor, he was more brutal than any wild beast in seizing his fellow servant by the throat.
What are you doing, O my beloved? Do you not see that you are making such a demand upon yourself? You are deceiving yourself. You are thrusting a sword into yourself! You are revoking both the sentence and the gift. But he considered none of this, nor did he remember his own case, nor did he yield at all. Yet the requests were not on the same order. Compare them. One was for ten thousand talents, the other for a pittance: a hundred denarii. One was merely dealing with his fellow servant. But the other was dealing with his lord. The one received entire forgiveness; the other asked for delay, and not so much as this did he give him, for “he cast him into prison.”5
Anyone who does not imitate this love as far as he can will suffer severe punishment from the just Judge. Even though it has been said, “Not to be regretted are God’s blessings,” yet wickedness is so strong that it blocks out these words. So the story demands two things of us: to remember our own faults and not to bear a grudge on one who stumbles.6
- ON MATTHEW 18.10. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2002). Matthew 14-28 (pp. 82–83). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW, HOMILY 61.3. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2002). Matthew 14-28 (pp. 84–85). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- FRAGMENT 216. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2002). Matthew 14-28 (pp. 85–86). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- TRACTATE ON MATTHEW 59.4. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2002). Matthew 14-28 (p. 86). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW, HOMILY 61.4. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2002). Matthew 14-28 (p. 87). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- FRAGMENT 92. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2002). Matthew 14-28 (p. 87). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.