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Modern Day Version of The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Reflection and Questions)

Understanding the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant might pose a challenge for today’s youth due to the unfamiliarity with the historical context of slavery and servitude during Jesus’ time. In this modern retelling, the story takes on a relatable form by casting Mike, a soccer team captain, in the lead role. Mike’s dedication and responsible behavior take a downturn, mirroring the unforgiving servant in the parable.

When Mike’s performance slips, his coach takes notice and addresses his change in attitude. Mike’s personal struggle—caring for his sick grandmother—elicits empathy from the coach, who offers understanding and support. However, when another player, Joe, faces a similar situation, Mike’s reaction is less forgiving. This stark contrast in Mike’s responses reveals a moral dilemma: compassion in times of personal hardship versus a lack of empathy towards others.

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant’s lesson revolves around forgiveness, which resonates even in this modern context. Coach’s decision to replace Mike as captain underscores the importance of treating teammates with kindness and understanding. Comparing this narrative to the Gospel reading, we see the parallel between the servant forgiven by the king and Mike forgiven by the coach. Conversely, the servant’s lack of mercy towards his fellow servant reflects Mike’s treatment of Joe.

In examining forgiveness, the discussion prompts provide a space for reflection. Youth are invited to consider instances where forgiving was challenging or where they received forgiveness. The emphasis is on healing wounds and letting go of grievances, aligning with the parable’s message. The challenge encourages teens to evaluate their own lives, urging them to release the burden of resentment and seek reconciliation.

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant … no change that to soccer player

Mike was captain of the soccer team. He had always been a good example for the other players. He was on time for practices. He never missed a game. And he always came ready to motivate and encourage his teammates.

But lately something was different. He had been late twice for practice in the last week. And then he showed up late for a game. He seemed distracted.

His coach pulled him aside to talk to him. “Mike, you’ve been a great team captain, but lately you just haven’t seemed like you care. I hate to do it, but I think I’m going to have to replace you.”

Mike was really upset. Being team captain was really important to him and he was really proud of how he had handled the responsibility. He knew why he had been distracted lately, so he opened up to the coach.

“Coach, I’m really sorry. I recently found out that my grandma is sick and I’ve really been worried about her. I was late for the game because I took her to her doctor appointment and it took longer than I expected. And I know I have been distracted and late for practice. I’m really sorry. We have grandma’s care better organized now and I know I can still do my team captain duties the way I should.”

Coach was very understanding. “Mike, I’m sorry to hear about your grandmother. That must be really stressful for you. You can continue as team captain. If you think you are going to be late because you need to help care for your grandma, just tell me and we will work something out.”

Mike was really relieved. Coach was nicer to him than he deserved. He wished he had said something to Coach earlier.

The next week Joe, one of the players on Mike’s team, missed practice. Mike was furious. When he saw Joe the next day, he didn’t even let Joe get a word out. He said, “Joe, you are not a team player. You missed practice. You are benched for a week.”

Joe said, “Mike, I’m really sorry I missed the practice. My brother was in an accident and I had to go to the hospital with him. Thankfully he is OK now. It won’t happen again.”

Mike replied “Excuses are worthless. You are still benched. I’m telling Coach.”

When some of the other players heard that Mike wanted to bench Joe, they went to Coach before Mike did. They told Coach the whole story. They thought it was unfair. Joe was a really reliable player. But he had to help his brother after the accident.

When Mike went to Coach and told him that he thought Joe should be benched, Coach already knew the whole story. He said to Mike, “One of the main jobs of the team captain is to improve team morale and help everyone work together. When we are a team, we care about each other. When you told me you were having problems because you had to help care for your Grandma, I wanted to work with you and help you succeed. But Joe missed one practice because his brother was in an accident. Instead of trying to see how you could support him, you wanted to punish him.”

Coach said, “I’m sorry Mike. Your attitude towards your teammates is not appropriate for a team captain. I’m replacing you.”

  • How did Mike feel when Coach understood why he had not been fulfilling his duties?
  • Would you consider Coach to be merciful?
  • How do you feel about Mike’s interaction with Joe?
  • Would you consider Mike to be merciful?
  • How do you imagine Coach felt when he heard about how Mike treated Joe?

Scripture Reading for the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

Now read the gospel of the parable of the unforgiving servant:

Matthew 18:21-35 (The parable of the unforgiving servant) – the Gospel Reading for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A

Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.

That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. Since he had no way of paying it back,his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt.

At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’

Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.

When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’

Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’

But he refused. Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison until he paid back the debts.

Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair.

His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’

Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”

Matthew 18:21-35

Discussion for the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

It might be hard for us to understand how Jesus describes God as somebody who owns servants. But this was common at the time and his audience would have understood this parable. So it is important to realize that the main point here is that we must forgive others as God has forgiven us.

We are going to talk a little bit about forgiveness now. You do not need to tell the circumstances of what happened in these cases. Only share what you want to.

  • Have you ever found it difficult to forgive? Why?
  • Have you ever been hurt and later been able to forgive? What helped you in this process?
  • Have you ever been forgiven by another person? How did that feel?
  • Do you think it is easier to forgive when you remember that you have also been forgiven for things you regret?

Challenge for the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

This week, look in your hearts and see if you are holding on to something that you need to forgive. It is OK to acknowledge that you have been hurt and to ask God to heal that wound. And remember that you don’t necessarily need to be friends with the person who has hurt you or interact with them. Ask God to help you let go of your wounds and truly forgive.

Themes for the Modern Day Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

  • Forgiveness and Mercy: The central theme of the reflection is forgiveness and mercy. It highlights the contrast between receiving forgiveness and showing mercy, emphasizing the importance of extending compassion to others as we have been forgiven ourselves.
  • Empathy and Understanding: The reflection underscores the significance of empathy and understanding in our interactions with others. It explores how showing empathy can lead to better relationships and a more compassionate community.
  • Responsibility and Leadership: The reflection addresses the responsibilities that come with leadership positions, such as being a team captain. It examines the accountability and expectations that leaders must uphold.
  • Personal Struggles: The reflection delves into the personal struggles and challenges individuals face. It showcases how these struggles can impact behavior and interactions with others, shedding light on the complexities of human emotions.
  • Accountability: Both the modern story and the parable emphasize accountability for one’s actions. The consequences of one’s behavior and decisions are explored, highlighting the need for accountability in personal and communal contexts.
  • Healing and Reconciliation: The reflection touches on the themes of healing and reconciliation. It encourages individuals to let go of grudges and seek reconciliation, promoting emotional healing and fostering a sense of unity.
  • Moral Dilemmas: The reflection raises moral dilemmas around forgiveness and judgment. It prompts readers to consider the ethical choices individuals make when faced with situations that require forgiveness or punishment.
  • Learning from Parables: The reflection encourages readers to draw lessons from parables and apply them to their own lives. It emphasizes the relevance of ancient stories in guiding modern behavior and decision-making.
  • Spiritual Growth: Through the discussion questions, the reflection addresses spiritual growth and personal development. It prompts readers to reflect on their own experiences of forgiveness and growth in their faith journey.
  • Cultural Context: The reflection acknowledges the cultural context of the original parable, highlighting how stories from different eras can be adapted to contemporary settings while retaining their core messages.

These themes collectively contribute to the reflection’s exploration of forgiveness, empathy, leadership, and personal growth within both the modern parable of the unforgiving servant and the original.

Background Material for the Modern Day Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant is found in the Gospel of Matthew, specifically in Matthew 18:21-35. In this parable, Jesus uses the story of a king and his servants to illustrate the concept of forgiveness and mercy. The parable follows a conversation between Peter and Jesus about how often one should forgive. Jesus responds with the idea of forgiveness being limitless, just as God’s forgiveness is boundless.

Forgiveness is a fundamental theme in Catholic theology. It is rooted in the belief that God’s mercy and forgiveness are central to the Christian faith. The parable teaches that just as God forgives us our sins, we are called to forgive those who wrong us. This aligns with Jesus’ teaching in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

The Catholic Church teaches that forgiveness is an act of love and an imitation of God’s own forgiveness. It promotes the idea that forgiveness leads to reconciliation and healing, both in our relationship with God and with one another. The Sacrament of Reconciliation, also known as Confession, is a sacramental expression of God’s forgiveness and a means of spiritual growth and renewal.

The Catechism emphasizes the importance of forgiveness and mercy. It states that “forgiveness is the fundamental condition of the reconciliation of the children of God with their Father and of men with one another” (CCC 2840). It also teaches that forgiving others is essential for our own salvation: “If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15).

The parable and its modern retelling highlight the concept of “forgiving from the heart” (CCC 2838). This means forgiving sincerely, without harboring resentment. It encourages believers to reflect on their own need for forgiveness and the call to extend that forgiveness to others.

In Catholic theology, mercy and forgiveness are interconnected. The reflection underscores the need to recognize our own reliance on God’s mercy and, in turn, show mercy to others. It invites individuals to foster a deeper understanding of forgiveness and its transformative power in their lives.

The reflection aligns with Catholic teachings on forgiveness, mercy, and the call to live out these principles in everyday interactions, drawing inspiration from both the parable and the broader theological context of Catholicism.

Youth Ministry Lesson Plans

Youth Ministry Lesson Plans and Reflections

Lesson plans are meant to give a framework for introducing information to youth. This Modern Day Parable of the Unforgiving Servant reflection is part of a larger set. Most of these also include reflection questions for small group sharing. These help youth think about how to apply what they have learned to their everyday lives.

Frequently Asked Questions for the Modern Day Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

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