The Gospel for Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time at St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral in Reno Nevada, this coming Sunday is the story of the unforgiving servant. I recall reading one time that there is a Dominican rule for interpreting the sacred text. This rule states that we should put ourselves into the person of each person in the story and ask what would motivate us to behave as the characters in the stories behave. I look at the motives of the unforgiving servant.
Jesus tells us in the story, “When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.”
Who brought this man to see the king and why? The king’s soldiers, on the orders of the kings accountants did. As I am carried in chains to see the king, I think of how I got into this jam. I think of all the money I lent to others instead of paying off my debt, and how, if I ever get out of jail, I will retrieve that money. My driving motivation is the desire for revenge, to get even with those who put me in this jam.
The passage tells us, “The debtor had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt.”
I will get my revenge for this humiliation delivered upon me, and having to see this delivered upon my family.
The king is a nice guy, Abba, haba, the one who is to come, the Father, is love, Ahabba. He really is a nice guy with unlimited resources. What I owe the king is great to me, but chickenfeed when compared to the resources of the king. The king pardons me my debts.
The king forgives the debt and I receive all back? I will still have my revenge. As I leave the palace of the king, I see a man who owes me a fraction of what I owe the king. I start to exact my revenge.
The article “Father Francisco’s homily,” applies to this coming Sunday’s Gospel reading. The first is the Jewish understanding of the Ten Commandments:
“It is not to your fathers that I give these commands, but to you, each of you, standing here, alive, today.” Remember, “I am The Personal Name your Mighty Judge who rescued you from the land of Egypt/Oppression, the house of menial labor.” Implied, “Remember what it was like to be there.”
To remember being there, is not to leave our meeting with the king thinking of revenge, but remembering our rescue, leaving the king’s presence with gratitude for forgiven dept. When we remember the suffering and the rescue, we pass God’s compassion onto others, we suffer with them, sympathy, sym, with, pathia, suffer, and join into community with them, and we suffer within one another, em- in, pathia.
“When his fellow servants saw what happened, they were disturbed, and reported the affair. His master summoned him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave your entire debt as you begged me to.”
His fellow servants saw the suffering the wicked servant inflicted upon his neighbor and took action, but not for the aggrieved party. The aggrieved party is one of them; the affront is against the community. His fellow servants thought, “As Jesus died to make men Holy, let us die to make men free!
The article from last week defines that key term “Wicked,” “He who thinks himself first.” When we are the first, we separate ourselves away from the others. We become “Pharisee,” “Separate One.” “Wicked” to a first century Jew means, apart from the community.
America is the land of rugged individualism. We are rough and tough and everything we received we received through our efforts. There is no room for God. Our Catholic faith tells us that God is Abba, the head of the house, the great provider, not ourselves. This is each person being apart, “Pharisee,” from his neighbor, a nation unto himself.
Our solution, as Catholics, as individuals and as a nation is to be one nation, natio-, nativity, one people born together, by the common bond of our heritage, the New Colossus on the Statue of Liberty. That applies to those within our nation and outside of our nation.
The debt we owe to our father, Abba, God, is to love God.
You will love God yur Almighty with all your hearts, with all of your animate being and with all of your measure. How do we love God? We respect what is his. What is his? Everything is his, in particular what God made in his image, each other. That is where the unforgiving servant fails. That is his debt, and that is our debt. The unforgiving servant shows that he does not pay his debt to the king, God, by the way he treats his neighbor. Do we do the same?