our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Please pray for us on the Atlantic coast. as Major Hurricane
Matthew works its way north.
Oremus et pro invicem!
It is difficult to put today's parable
into an exact perspective. Our Lord says that the king's debtor owed him "ten
But a talent is a weight, rather than a coin, so we are talking about a weight
of gold or silver, and the best guesses are that the weight was somewhere
between fifty and a hundred pounds. And it doesn't help that the value of gold
and silver has fluctuated enormously since the time of Christ. Whatever the
actual value, the debtor owed ten thousand of them, and the fact that the king
felt justified in seizing the man's wife and children along with him suggests
that the debtor owed a great deal.
Quite clearly, the king is a metaphor
for God, and the great debt is the debt due to sin that we fallen men and women
are in the habit of piling up. God is infinitely greater than his people, so
even a single sin represents an insult so great that we have no way of repaying
it. The Book of Proverbs tells us that “even the just man falls seven times,”
so the debt due to our sins is some unimaginable amount.
It may even make the ten thousand talents seem small by comparison. The sin of
Adam lost salvation for all mankind, and, again, the ten thousand talents seem
insignificant when compared with universal damnation.
But just like the king, God had
compassion on His debtors. Adam and Eve had nothing of value—not even by mortal
human standards. They could not even begin to make amends to God for their
transgression. But God has compassion. In fact immediately He promised to
mankind a representative that would make good the debt. In the third chapter of
Genesis God promised to put “enmities between the devil and the offspring of
Eve... that her offspring would crush the head of the devil.”
Mary the daughter of Eve would give birth to a new Adam—a Savior who would a new
race of men and women redeemed by the blood shed by the man‑God on the cross.
God would become man and dip into His own treasury to make the debt good. Jesus
Christ could do what no other man could, for He was God, the Son of God, and all
of His actions were of infinite value.
One could speculate that a lesser action
than His agony and death on the Cross would have been adequate to pay the debt
of fallen mankind. After all, all of Jesus' actions were of infinite worth.
The fact that He suffered and died speaks to two things. First, it gives us an
idea of just how compassionate God actually is—He wasn't just writing off a
debt, He was doing so at extreme personal sacrifice. Perhaps more importantly,
His agony was an indication of how serious sin is. We are insignificant in
comparison with Jesus Christ. If He accepted crucifixion to pay for our sins,
how much more would we imperfect beings have to suffer to pay the same debt? Of
course we cannot, but just imagine if the only way to expiate our sins would be
to be crucified! A lot of people chafe if they are told to say a half dozen
Rosaries for their penance—just imagine if the priest told you that you must be
And the subject of Confession raises
another example of God's compassion. The crucifixion took place on a certain
day in history. It redeemed all of mankind alive at that time. But surely
there would be new sins committed from that day forward. God's compassion was
so great that He arranged to have the merits of the crucifixion be applied for
sinners in the future. He established a priesthood that could renew the
Sacrifice of the Cross in the unbloody manner He prescribed at the Last Supper.
And because these men offered the Sacrifice of Christ, they too were capable of
forgiving the sins of men and women. "Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven
Now, if we go back to the parable, we
see that it did not end with the forgiveness of the first debtor. A second man
enters the story—one who owes the first debtor a small amount of money—“a
hundred pence” the Gospel says—a few pieces of copper, quite likely. The second
man repeats the entreaties of the first: “Have patience with me, and I will pay
thee all.” But this time the result is different. The man's pleas inspire no
compassion, but only a hard-nosed attempt to collect the debt immediately.
Quite predictably the king, who represents God in the parable, is disturbed with
the first man. The parable would have us understand that God is angry with
those of us who fail to imitate His compassion. He gave His only Son for our
redemption—to pay our debt—yet we are petty in exacting demands from our
debtors. We go to law courts to try to collect small amounts; we may even try
to place a lien on the debtor's home, or car, or even the means of his
livelihood. Particularly if the debt was illegal (like, say, a gambling debt)
some will even resort to violence!
God's compassion goes far beyond
monetary debt, and so should ours. Indeed, most of what we owe God for sin is
in the realm of insult. We snub God in our sins. We are, in effect, saying
that “my needs and my pleasures are more important than God's Laws.” We are
telling God that He doesn't matter to us! Yet God forgives—and so must we
forgive—we must forgive all those that are unkind, or spiteful, or petty, or
inattentive, or cause us grief and anger in any other way—we must forgive!
From today's Mass we must learn that
sins are forgiven at a great price. Whenever we are tempted to sin, we should
call to mind the image of our Lord suffering on the Cross, and resolve not to
add even a little bit to those sufferings. Secondly, we must try to imitate God
in His compassion, generously forgiving “those who trespass against us,” so that
God will “forgive our trespasses against Him.”