My dear friends in our Lord: Glory to Jesus Christ!
My friends, sometimes our Lord Jesus Christ speaks plainly in the Gospels, but at other times He teaches by means of parables, similes, and stories. He does so to uplift and engage our minds as we hear Him, presenting things more clearly to our human intellect, instilling in our souls an abiding remembrance of His sacred words. The use of similitudes makes His teaching vivid for our sakes; it rouses those of us lying in laziness to listen, as the Gospel reading today teaches us, saying:
The Lord spoke this parable: The kingdom of heaven is likened to a king, who would take an account of his servants. And when he had begun to take the account, one was brought to him, that owed him ten thousand talents. And as he had not wherewith to pay it, his lord commanded that he should be sold, and his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.
This is a sobering parable, my friends, dreadful and terrifying for transgressors of God’s commandments, but for those that keep them it can be reassuring. Let us examine what our Lord says to us.
The kingdom of heaven which is likened unto a certain king refers to Christ our Lord. He is likened unto a man that is a king, in that He took ﬂesh for our sake and was like man in all things except sin. His servants are all humanity.
Now, the good Lord converses with us in this life, arranging our affairs and judging us by means of our own conscience. Each and every person is daily examined concerning what he or she has done, and by their own conscience, written in their heart by the Author of all, is brought to a salutary awareness of his or her deeds as seen in the light of grace.
“One was brought to him that owed him ten thousand talents.” Now, a talent, according to some historians, is a measure of weight equivalent to about 110 pounds. Now, the Gospel does not specify what type of talent was owed, whether silver or gold. Suffice to say in any event, it is an enormous sum of money, in modern value a single talent of silver would be worth over one million four hundred thousand dollars. And here, the servant owed ten thousand talents. Over ten billion dollars.
We are all of us debtors in the sum of ten thousand talents as the parable says, because of the inestimable good things and gifts we have received from God. Every day itself is a gift that no amount of money could purchase. We ought to love the benevoled Lord greatly, with all our hearts, and yet instead we sin against Him.
The wicked servant today who received a position of trust from his lord and wasted his master’s wealth has become a debtor; he is handed over by his master to be sold, together with his wife and children. Once sold, he becomes the servant of another master; this illustrates alienation from God. His wife refers to the flesh, as being the partner of the soul; their children are their deeds, wrought by the soul and the body together.
But that servant falling down, besought him, saying: Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
The servant saw his dire circumstances; he understood the size of his debt. He learned the full extent of his indebtedness, but he had no answer to give for what was sought of him. He ran and fell down in obeisance, and asked for a time of reprieve, promising to pay what he owed.
And the lord of that servant being moved with pity, let him go and forgave him the debt.
The lord, a patient man, saw the servant’s contrition; not being hardhearted, he was moved to mercy by the debtor’s entreaty. He freed him from a cruel fate; he forgave his debt completely, the entire sum of ten thousand talents.
Now note that the lord’s order for the servant to repay his debt was in fact merciful rather than merciless. It was issued so that the man, fearing his just punishment, might seek mercy and obtain pardon. Had the lord not handed down such a stern sentence, he could not have accomplished the act of forgiving the debt of one who fell down and entreated him. The master did not do so before the servant’s condemnation, because if the servant had received forgiveness so lightly, he would not have appreciated the greatness of the gift of forgiveness. Therefore was he first brought to a position of great need, so that he would – ideally – once and for all remember the punishment from which he had been delivered, and he would himself be merciful to his debtors, having learned from his misfortunes. But we hear then:
But when that servant was gone out, he found one of his fellow servants that owed him an hundred pence: and laying hold of him, throttled him, saying: Pay what thou owest.
Great was the philanthropy of the master to his servant, great and surpassing, but the servant’s severity and ruthlessness towards his fellow servant was incomprehensible, merciless, and inhuman.
He only asked for an extension of time, but the lord forgave him his debt, giving him incalculably more than he had asked for in his entreaty. But he went out and immediately showed his cruelty, before even a little time had gone by. Now another suffering servant says the same words with which the merciless man obtained forgiveness, as we hear:
And his fellow servant falling down, besought him, saying: Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he paid the debt.
The first servant had made entreaty concerning ten thousand talents, and received complete forgiveness, while his colleague asked only for more time, yet the wicked and unjust servant would not grant event that. He had no regard for the form of the petition, by which he himself had been pardoned, nor was he moved by the words, “Have patience,” which he had used for his own deliverance.
Nor was it an equal debt about which the other besought him; he had made entreaty about a matter of talents, billions of dollars in our estimation, but this man, only pence, pennies. He had begged a master, but this man, a fellow-servant. And though the master had forgiven him such a great debt in its entirety, he would not even give his fellow-servant extra time in making payment.
Now his fellow servants seeing what was done, were very much grieved, and they came and told their lord all that was done. Then his lord called him; and said to him: Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all the debt, because thou besoughtest me: shouldst not thou then have had compassion also on thy fellow servant, even as I had compassion on thee?
The good master and king reckons with the wicked servant and revokes his gift; or, rather he himself does not revoke it, for the gifts of God are irrevocable; rather, it was repudiated by the man who did-not show mercy to his fellow.
The lord speaks to him who is unworthy of any words; he patiently rebukes him who stands self-condemned; he explains that the servant himself forfeited his former gift and afterwards incurred punishment.
When he had not the wherewithal to repay his debt, the lord did not call him wicked, but instead pardoned him. But when he was merciless to his fellow-servant, then did the lord call him wicked. Lack of mercy is abominable before God!
Let us hearken, we who are so quick to hold grudges and remember wrongs, let us hearken and let us be sobered; let us understand that we bind fast our own transgressions when we remember and visit evil against our brethren.
Let us understand this clearly: Our sins against God are numbered in tens of thousands, while the sins of our brethren against us are in the hundreds. Each one of us owes God ten thousand talents; that is, each man is responsible for a great and heavy debt; we owe God many and great debts on account of our many and great sins. Everyone who sins against us owes us a hundred pence; in other words, a small and relatively insignificant sum, when compared with ten thousand talents. Seeing that we owe God so great a debt, if we do not show mercy to them that desire of us the forgiveness of small debts, we lose the pardon which God gave us when we prayed and entreated Him, and we shall be required to answer for all our transgressions.
And his lord being angry, delivered him to the torturers until he paid all the debt.
In other words, he condemned him to be tormented endlessly and forever; he will never be able to repay his debt.
So also shall My heavenly Father do to you, if you forgive not every one his brother from your hearts.
And here is the true lesson, my friends. It is for the sake of this saying that our Lord composed the whole parable; He supported His teaching with a parable that it might more readily be received.
Here the Lord asks two things of us: that We censure our own sins, and that we forgive others their trespasses; for one who is cognizant of his own failings will be more lenient towards his neighbour. The Lord does not seek the forgiveness which comes merely from the lips; He commands us to grant forgiveness which is from the heart.
Let us consider, my friends, what manner of persons we have been, and what we have done, and how many good things we have received from the Lord. How is it that we daily endeavour to transgress God’s laws and despise His commandments and ordinances? All of us have in our lives in turns gone astray, every one for his own purposes. We commit sins of bringing others into disgrace, injuring others, greed, slander, rage, abasement of others, lending money on usurious terms and seeking to profit by such injustice – a most godless deed. We eat gluttonously and insatiably; We get drunk, commit fornication and adultery, and we are merciless to the needy. What else can one say? This is the truth.
Let us, my friends, come to our senses. Let us abstain from all such vain things. Let us incline our ears to the word of God, and let us strive to carry out the words in our deeds. Let us forgive the little debts of our neighbours, whether it be a matter of money, or contempt, or abusive words, or anything else, that we may receive a greater forgiveness from God, and become heirs of His kingdom, of which may we all be counted worthy in Christ Jesus our Lord..