One Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict

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The Word of God and the Body of God reveal each other -- the homily worships both.

August 12, 2010

For Thursday of the Nineteenth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Ezekiel 12:1-12
Matthew 18:21 to 19:1

St. Peter makes use of the number of the days of creation— seven— to propose an ideal number of times he should forgive a brother who sins against him.
To say the least, the Lord refigures the mathematics for him: not merely seven, but many times more than that.
Today in both readings the Lord tells of punishment either by captivity in exile or by long-lasting torture.
In the first reading, the Lord’s word recalls Israel’s rebellion against him and his punishing Israel with captivity in exile.
In his Gospel today, the Lord tells of a king who handed over for torture one of his debtors who was an unforgiving hypocrite.
The Lord says a horrendous thing: “So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”
This Gospel reading even points to an impossible length of time for the torture.
However, it is hidden behind a translation failure.
Italians say translation is treason, and that is the case with today’s Gospel reading.
This treasonous rendering says the first servant owed his king “a huge amount.”
However, the original language spells out ten thousand talents.
A Biblical talent was the salary for fifteen years of work.
So, ten thousand talents are the salary for the work of one hundred and fifty thousand years.
It is an impossible debt, with no way of being paid back, as the Gospel says.
The servant begged for patience, and claimed he would pay it back in full.
That was impossible; and so the king just forgave the debt.
You and I are each in the same position with God.
We are souls God made from nothing that shall live, not merely one hundred and fifty thousand years, but forever.
Even if we were sinless, our souls are impossibly, everlastingly indebted to God.
What kind of additional, impossible debt must we have since we are, not only alive, but also sinners?
Furthermore, what of God in Christ the King who chose to pay all debts we owe him by his undergoing torture and death in our stead?
He has not merely forgiven our debts.
Rather, he has paid them with his own flesh, blood, soul, and divinity.
The second servant in the Gospel today owes the first what this translation calls “a much smaller amount.”
In fact, the original language says it is “a hundred denarii,” the salary for one hundred days only.
That’s as nothing against one hundred and fifty thousand years.
The sins of our fellow men against us are as nothing against our immortal souls we owe to God and against our sins that disown and dishonor our Creator.
God gives us mercy if we ask it.
However, he lays down the condition that we forgive our fellow men from our hearts.
Otherwise God will withhold his mercy from us.
No— even worse!
The Lord says his heavenly Father will do to us as the king to his indebted and unforgiving servant: hand us over to the torturers until we paid back the whole debt we owe him.
One hundred and fifty thousand years of torture might as well be forever.
You and I are here before the altar to dare to ask Christ our King and God to hand over his Body and Blood to pay the impossible debts we owe him.
What everlasting fools we should be to withhold a lesser forgiveness from our fellow servants.

That God Be Glorified in All