Homily for the twenty-fourth Sunday of the year - Year A - Mt. 18:21-35


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"Then Peter came up and said to him, 'Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?' Jesus said to him, 'I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.'


" 'Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents; and as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, "Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything." And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But that same servant, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat he said, "Pay what you owe." So his fellow servant fell down and besought him, "Have patience with me, and I will pay you." He refused and went and put him in prison till he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, "You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?" And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt.'


" 'So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.' "





Homily:


"Then Peter came up and said to him, 'Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?' Jesus said to him, 'I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.' "


Today is September 15, 2002. If I were to ask you what you ate a month ago, on August 15, you would doubtless reply that you no longer remember. And you would be right to say that; unless perhaps you had gone out to eat at a restaurant that day, or if you had been invited to a friend's house or to a party; or unless your financial resources are so limited that you are forced to eat the same thing just about every day...


So, man is subject to forgetfulness... But there is one thing that man has trouble forgetting: the offenses that others have committed against him. Why? Quite simply because an offense is always present in the spirit of the man who does not want or know how to let time act, the time that inexorably passes and that allows offenses to be forgotten... So, there is but a single remedy that allows the forgiveness of offenses: time! This is why Jesus answers Peter by saying that he must forgive again and again, up to seventy-seven times, thus giving time the chance to act and allowing the offense to disappear from memory.


Why does time heal the soul of the offenses against it? The answer is simple, and yet it partly eludes our way of thinking and understanding. One would need to be an angel to truly understand it. For it is the angels - the evil angels - who are at the origin of evil and of the sin that burdens men ever since Adam and Eve offended God in the terrestrial Paradise. Now, angels, by their very nature, cannot make use of time in their reflection: they intellectually see everything immediately. So, in every offense committed against us, there is found the mark of the fallen angels, a mark that consists in a certain absence of time. In other words, it is as if each offense were always present before our eyes: as if it were impossible to forget it...


What I have just said is something that everyone has already experienced, for we have all heard someone say: "Such-and-such a person has wronged me: I can never forget it..." And it is for this reason that many people have great difficulty in forgiving the offenses committed against them, for they can never forget them... However, Jesus correctly replied to Peter when he told him to forgive up to seventy-seven times. For the only way to truly forgive someone is to allow time to act upon our spirit, upon our soul, upon our entire being, in order that time, with the grace of God, might be able to transform that act of offense into a true, historical act, and that we might be able to regard it as being truly in the past, almost forgotten...


" 'Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents; and as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, "Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything." And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.' "


In the parable told by Jesus, there is a debt that the master forgives the servant. But this is only the second part of the parable. The first consists of the fact that the servant asks the master to "have patience" and to give the servant some extra time to pay off his debt. For the servant is not ignorant of how to rid himself of his debt: he knows that time acts in his favor, he knows that it is time that will allow his master to forget his debt!


However, the master anticipates that time: he forgives the servant's debt, even before time had a chance to act in the servant's favor. It is a grace, a grace of mercy! For the master already wants to forget everything! Is this not wonderful? To know that our offense has already been forgiven, to know that we no longer owe anything to anyone! Indeed, what grace! Is it not onerous to know that one owes such-and-such an amount to our lenders? Would we not prefer to live without ever having any debts to pay? Yes, of course we would! And yet...


" 'But that same servant, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat he said, "Pay what you owe." So his fellow servant fell down and besought him, "Have patience with me, and I will pay you." He refused and went and put him in prison till he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, "You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?" And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt.' "


And yet, the servant in the parable does not realize in what his happiness consists... He even goes so far as to try to get back a few coins from one of his fellow workers... Why does he act in this way? Did he not understand what he should do? Yes and no. He understood how he could benefit from time, but he also remained profoundly attached to time: he wanted to live forever on earth, instead of making use of his time to work toward the salvation of his soul and of that everyone around him! The fact that his master anticipates time and immediately forgives him his debt did not reassure him but, on the contrary, frightened him: it was as if he saw himself already at the end of his life, it was as if the Lord had anticipated for him the hour of his Judgement...


May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, who is the Queen of Angels, teach us to make good use of our time! Through Her, and with Her, may the time that God gives us in this life serve the Glory of her Son Jesus and of his Church! Amen!




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