St. John Fisher Roman Catholic Church

30 Jones Hollow Road, Marlborough, CT 06447

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time A20

Today we have a continuation of last week’s Gospel and its theme of forgiveness. Peter puts himself as a foil by asking a question. Peter wants to know how often he must forgive a fellow member in the household of the Church who commits an offense or sin time and again. The rabbis taught that one fulfilled the duty to forgive by pardoning the offender 3 times, three strikes and you’re out in baseball terms. Quite likely Peter was patting himself on the back and expecting Jesus’ praise by suggesting 7 times which amount implied always. Jesus retorted 77 times, implying infinite forgiveness.

Jesus then launches into a parable. To really appreciate the enormity of the debt of the 1st servant and the relative smallness of the 2nd know that “a huge amount” in other translations is 10,000 talents and “a much smaller amount” is 100 denarii. A talent is comparable to 6,000 denarii which means that the 1st servant owed 60,000,000 denarii while the 2nd unfortunate one owed only 100!  A denarius was equal to a full day’s wage. The ungrateful servant would have to live multiple lifetimes to even make a small dent in his debt while the 2nd servant, perhaps with the help of his relatives, could conceivably pay his debt relatively soon.

By forgiving his impossible liability, the master introduced another aspect to his servant’s life, namely, a world of compassion where people are valued more that any possession. Unfortunately he did not get it.

Do we? The parable should open our eyes. If we want to keep accounts, I imagine we would have maybe 60 million reasons for gratitude of receiving pardon and mercy by God and somewhat less than 100 to forgive. As Sirach writes: “Could anyone refuse mercy to another …?” Nourishing wrath and anger, holding them tightly, feeding resentment traps a person in a self-made prison. A story is told of a former inmate of a concentration camp who was visiting a friend who had shared the same ordeal. “Have you forgiven the Nazis?” he asked his friend. “Yes.” “Well, I haven’t. I’m still consumed with hatred for them.” “In that case,” said his friend gently, “they still have you in prison.”

The ending statements by Jesus ought to snap us to attention: “Should you not have pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?”  If God is willing to forgive us, surely we can forgive others. If we are unwilling to show mercy, the mercy we had already been given will be taken back; and, the judgment will be harsh.

I will close now with a quote from The Letter of James: “Merciless is the judgement on the one [man] who[1] has not shown mercy; but mercy triumphs over judgment.”[2]


[1] I substituted “who” for “man”.

[2] James 2:13

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