At first glance the Gospel today seems
to be a simple reminder to “treat other people the way you would like to be
But with a little bit of reflection we can see that it is actually a compendium
of our Catholic Faith.
If the King in the parable is God, then
the first servant is very much like Adam and Eve who offended God by their sin,
and who had nothing adequate to offer him by way of apology to obtain His
forgiveness. They had incurred the great debt of sin, and even their
entire beings were not of sufficient value to pay that debt.
But God is a merciful King who promised
them a way out of their predicament. He freely forgave their debt, paying
it Himself by making His Son one of Adam’s descendents—the perfect priest
and perfect victim—who offered the perfect Sacrifice to God’s glory.
God’s glory, which had been contradicted by the sin of a man and woman, was
thus affirmed by the Second Adam, with the cooperation of the Second Eve, Jesus
Christ and His mother Mary.
But, lest we fall into the mistake of
thinking that all men and women were automatically saved by the Sacrifice
of the Cross, we can turn back to the parable and see that the servant had to ask
for the King’s forbearance before his individual debt was forgiven. If
we relate this to the Christian Faith, we recognize that we must ask God for the
things necessary for our salvation through prayer and the Sacraments—chiefly,
of course through the Sacrament of Baptism, but also through Sacramental
Confession since we seem to go back periodically and accrue new debts through
our sins—and also in Holy Communion, where we develop more of a personal
relationship with God our King.
But, again, going back to the parable,
we see that our salvation is not yet completed by simply relating to God.
A few weeks back we heard that the Great Commandment of the Law was to “love
God with our whole heart, and our whole soul and our whole mind.” But we
also heard that there was a second Great Commandment, that we are to “love our
neighbor as ourselves.”
The first servant had been completely forgiven by the King, but he still made
himself liable to punishment by his failure to adopt the kindness of the King as
his own. In terms of the Faith we would say that he failed to be
“God-like,” or that he failed to be “Christ-like.” Where the King
showed compassion, the servant showed only rage—grabbing him, choking him, and
throwing him into prison. Quite justifiably, the King was angered—He had
forgiven a debt of ten thousand talents (a huge weight of silver, or perhaps
even gold), but the wicked servant refused to forgive a mere hundred days’
wages. Predictably, the King revoked his pardon, and handed the first
servant “over to the torturers until he should pay all that was due.”
In terms of the Faith, we see what Hell
must be like: An attempt to work off a debt that can never be paid, for
one’s time is spent in being tortured, rather than in anything productive.
Here the parable refutes one of the great errors of the time—the error that it
is merely enough to know God and to believe in Him, without regard to one’s
behavior or relationship to one’s fellow man. Saint James puts this
point quite succinctly in his Epistle:
And if a brother or sister be naked
and want daily food: And one of you say to them: Go in peace, be warmed and
filled; yet give them not those things that are necessary for the body, what
shall it profit? Faith, if it have not works, is dead in itself….
Thou believest that there is one God. Thou dost well: the devils also
believe and tremble.
As with the King who demands a like
compassion of his servants, our Lord demands the same of us. In Saint
Matthew’s Gospel we read:
When the Son of man shall come in
his majesty, and all the angels with him…. he shall separate one from
another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats: Then
shall the king say to them that shall be on his right hand: Come, ye blessed
of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation
of the world. . . For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat: I was thirsty,
and you gave me to drink: I was a stranger …naked … sick … I was
in prison, and you came to me. Amen I say to you, as long as you did
it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.
Then he shall say to them also that
shall be on his left hand: Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting
fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was
hungry and you gave me not to eat … thirsty and you gave me not to drink.
I was a stranger …naked … sick … I was in prison and you did not
visit me…. Amen: I say to you, as long as you did it not to one of these
least, neither did you do it to me. And these shall go into
everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting.
God our King is not asking any more of
us that what he has done for us Himself. As the King showed compassion to
the first servant, and expected that servant to show compassion to the second,
God has shone His compassion toward us. If His Eternal Son could die for
us on the Cross in forgiveness, we certainly can forgive the temporary
transgressions made against us in this world.
He does not ask of us to give what we do
not have. He has showered down His bounty upon the earth—we are blessed
on Earth with grain and meat and wine and oil; with an abundance of
materials to make clothing and shelter. He has given us the True Faith,
and the hope of eternal salvation. Surely
we can share some of this bounty with those who have less. He doesn’t
ask that we give everything that we possess, but merely that we show compassion
like His on the poor and the ignorant. He asks that we so these things,
that one day, at the beginning of our eternity, we may hear those words:
“Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess
you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”