Homily for 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A: As We Forgive
Readings here: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/091717.cfm
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
One of the easiest things for me to do in the confessional is to assure penitents of how much God loves them. When I hear the penitents racked with guilt, I look up at the crucifix and I remember that there is no end to God’s love; there is no sin too great nor any amount of sins too many for God to forgive. He created us and died for us. He gives His whole life to us on the cross and in the Eucharist so that we can be happy.
It’s easy for me to assure penitents of this truth, to tell someone else how much God loves them, but it’s hard to appreciate it and receive it myself.
One of the signs that we have truly received God’s merciful and freely given love is that we too are merciful. Mercy includes not only caring for the poor, and visiting the sick and imprisoned, it extends to forgiving and loving our enemies, those who have hurt us. It’s very rare for anyone to go through life without being hurt by someone close to you - perhaps a friend, a family member, or a coworker. Have you forgiven them?
The moral of today’s readings is very clear: if we want to be forgiven, we must forgive. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. When hearing the Gospel, it’s easy to condemn the ungrateful servant immediately for his obvious hypocrisy. But what is the reason for his hypocrisy? Why doesn’t he extend the same merciful love that he received?
The servant doesn’t appreciate what he has received. He doesn’t get it. That’s why he turns around and demands repayment for his tiny loan despite being forgiven an enormous debt. If we, who ask God to forgive our sins, do not forgive those who have hurt us, we are just like the servant in today’s Gospel. So what is the solution?
We have to get it. We have to appreciate God’s love for us. Two things can keep us from appreciating God’s love. One is that we don’t know the debt of our sin, and two is that we think that we have earned it.
Let’s begin with one: the debt of our sin. In the Gospel today, the translators chose to describe the debt with the word, “huge.” The literal translation of the original Greek text is, “10,000 talents.” A talent was worth 6,000 day’s wages. Multiply 10,000 and 6,000, and you get 60 million day’s wages. If that servant were to work everyday for 70 years, he would arrive at about 25,000 days, leaving him just 59,975,000 days to go before he could pay off his debt.
How could anyone accrue that amount of debt? We do so and more when we sin against an infinite God who has given us His very self. It is God who created us. God who died for us. God who gives His entire self to us in the Eucharist. And all of this only to make us happy. When we sin, we throw away this incredible gift, and we accrue an impossible debt.
Number two: we think that we have earned God’s forgiveness. God’s love is unlike any other love that we have ever received. Even if we grew up in unconditionally loving homes, we still generally think that we have to earn people’s love. Mom and Dad will only love me if I’m successful. My husband will only love me if I am skinny. My friend will only love me if I do what he wants.
These are the types of love that we are used to, so when we hear that God loves us, it is very common to think that he loves us like our friends and our family members love us. And that makes us think that we can earn his love. That might be what is going on with the servant in the Gospel. Perhaps he thinks that he has begged so well that he actually earned the forgiveness of his debt. As strange as that sounds, it’s a common occurrence in our relationship with God. It’s not rare to think that if we have checked off our boxes - said our prayers, gone to confession, attended Mass - we have earned God’s love.
But nothing could be further from the truth. St. John writes in his first letter, “In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that God has loved us and sent His Son as expiation for our sins.” God doesn’t love us because we have done something for Him, or that we have loved him first. His love is always first, completely free, and completely unmerited.
This is the great news of the Gospel! Have we believed it? Have we really received God’s love? To answer that question, we can simply ask, “Have I forgive those who have hurt me?” If we get just how good the good news is, if we understand the enormity of our debt and the gratuity of God’s love, we will find ourselves forgiving our enemies, forgiving those who have hurt us.
So what if we haven’t forgiven those who have hurt us? What if we are holding onto a grudge that we can’t let go of? Can we be forgiven?
Our God is the great King who is willing to forgive much more than 10,000 talents. He is merciful and patient. In Him you can find the healing and strength you need to forgive. Talk to Him honestly in prayer. Receive Him often in the Eucharist and Confession, and you will come to know His love more deeply. Ask for the gift of forgiving, and you will receive the peace that comes from praying with confidence, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”