Then Peter asked him, “Lord, how many times must I forgive the offenses of my brother or sister? Seven times?” Jesus answered, “No, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. This story throws light on the kingdom of heaven. A king decided to settle accounts with his servants. Among the first of them was one who owed him ten thousand pieces of gold. As the man could not repay the debt, the king commanded that he be sold as a slave with his wife, his children and all his goods, as repayment.
The servant threw himself at the feet of the king and said, ‘Give me time, and I will pay you back everything.‘ The king took pity on him and not only set him free but even cancelled his debt. “When this servant left the king’s presence, he met one of his fellow servants, who owed him a hundred pieces of silver. He grabbed him by the throat and almost choked him, shouting, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ His fellow servant threw himself at his feet and begged him, ‘Give me time, and I will pay everything.’ But the other did not agree, and sent him to prison until he had paid all his debt. “Now the servants of the king saw what had happened. They were extremely upset, and so they went and reported everything to their lord. Then the lord summoned his servant and said, ‘Wicked servant, I forgave you all that you owed me when you begged me to do so. Weren’t you bound to have pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ The lord was now angry. He handed the wicked servant over to be punished, until he had paid the whole debt.”
Jesus added, “So will my heavenly Father do with you, unless you sincerely forgive your brothers and sisters.” When Jesus had finished this teaching, he left Galilee and arrived at the border of Judea, on the other side of the Jordan River.
When we come to think of it, it is not surprising that Heaven is inaccessible to those who refuse to forgive. This follows from the nature of things. For indeed, what is Heaven if not being with God in total bliss? Now, the ones who refuse to forgive, if they found themselves in Heaven, would be neither happy nor of one heart with God. They would not be happy because they would eternally have to bear the company of those against whom they hold a grudge. Moreover, they would not be of one heart with God for God is, in his whole being, forgiveness and mercy. And in this respect the grudge-bearers would find themselves in sharp disharmony with the only possible source of true happiness. For them Heaven would be an eternal source of frustration. Why? Because fundamentally Heaven is less a place than a state of the soul, a mode of being. In order to taste God and experience the blissful ecstasy of his presence, one needs to be transformed into him, become like him glowing with love and kindness. When it is a matter of tasting God, only one method will succeed: to become like him.
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