At this Sunday’s Holy Mass, we will read a parable from St. Matthew’s gospel. Our English translation of the parable refers to a debtor owing “a huge amount” to his employer. The original Greek text reads “ten thousand talents.” The current U.S. dollar equivalent would be: $225,000,000. [Spanish]
In the royal throne room, the official groveled before his master. Again, to translate literally from the Greek: the debtor did the king homage by kissing the royal hands and then prostrating himself on the floor.
Now, this king had some money. He possessed stunning power and largesse. The extent of his resources made even this particular IOU of 225 million seem small. He knew this poor little spendthrift of a provincial official would never be able to pay it back. The official had squandered the money on some terrible idea.
But the king liked the official anyway. Maybe the king enjoyed the official’s sense of humor, or appreciated his political loyalty, or maybe the official had superior military skills. Who knows?
‘Come on, get up, old boy! What’s $225 million among friends? Go home, and give your wife and kids a kiss for me.’
Here’s the question: What kind of king is this? How did he manage to amass so much wherewithal that he could wave off a debt of a quarter-billion dollars without batting an eyelash, smiling indulgently? Who has the power, the confidence, and the resources to act with such otherworldly magnificence?
Nineteen years since 9/11. Let’s remember: There is one point-of-view from which the Twin Towers in New York City, even when they stood a quarter-mile high, did not look tall. Those of us old enough to remember, we can tell our young people: ‘From the ground, those two towers made for an awesome spectacle.’ Someone Else, however, looked down upon them, with all-knowing eyes. They looked small to Him.
How can we Christians find it in ourselves to be genuinely forgiving? How we say something like: “I hope everyone who died on September 11, 2001, can get to heaven somehow. Everyone. I pray for the thousands, of good guys. And I pray for the 19 bad guys, too. May we all be in heaven together someday.’
How can a Christian muster the magnanimity to pray for his enemies? To love his enemies. To want nothing other than to live in the Kingdom of God with both friends and foes alike?
I’ll tell you one thing: Will-power alone cannot bring it off. We human beings do not become merciful by our own force of will. The evil of the world dwarfs our natural virtues. If we presume to go up against the malice of Satan without God’s grace, we will be crushed instantly in a hail of debris.
But we can be merciful, because God is great. We can share in His infinite resources.
The Lord looks down and sees the world, His handiwork. When part of it is scarred by the ugliness of evil, He immediately sees how, by His infinite power, He will heal and rebuild. Because He sees a world full of His children. Not one falls outside the reach of His love. When one sins, He sees immediately how He will move the sinner to repentance by the calm light of truth. All things will be made right by the blood of Christ. The sinner will not be lost.
In other words, God has a bank account big enough to cover the most outrageous debts. When the planes and the buildings came crashing down on September 11, the Lord thought: This is terrible. But of course I will pour out everything needed to bring good even out of this, and the sun will rise again. God’s love makes even the most tremendous catastrophe look small. God always has a way to heal it, and make all things new.
The divine safety net of mercy will never collapse. It is no ponzi scheme. The Lord loans and loans and loans, never expecting repayment. And infinitely more wealth still sits in the Almighty bank.
May His Kingdom come. May He give us our daily bread. May He forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
To go back to the Greek text of the gospel reading one more time. Our translation has it that the second servant owed the first “a very small amount.” Approximate calculation from the original text, in our currency: $35.
The first servant owed the king $225 million. The second servant owed the first $35.
Certainly, you and I owe each other $35 here and there. Let’s make apologies, and do what we can to make it right. Then we can forget all about it, and we can go together to kiss the King’s hands and prostrate ourselves before Him. He will smile to see us together.