SUNDAY 17 September 2017, 24th Sunday
• Sirach 27:30 – 28:9 • Psalm 103 • Romans 14:7-9 • + Matthew 18:21-35 •
Title: “Debt Ceiling”
[__01__] “Sin” in the parable of the Gospel – or “sinfulness” in the Gospel today is expressed – symbolically – as a debt that is owed, a monetary amount to be repaid.
We read that the landowner has decided to settle accounts with his servants . Some of them owe him a great deal of money. Their credit-card balances are very burdensome. They are not solvent.
And, so to catch the attention of his listeners, to talk with them about the account history of their sins – and their A.P.R. annual percentage rate - Jesus also reminds us that God is very merciful towards us.
And, our Savior compares God’s mercy to this very benevolent and generous landowner and ruler.
The ruler is a symbol of Christ, our king and we owe him big-time.
[__02__] Peter, the Apostle, on the other hand, has a debt ceiling. The U.S. government has a debt ceiling, a maximum amount that the government can borrow.
Peter also has a debt-ceiling or maximum number of times that he will forgive someone. What’s the number? He says “seven” but seems more comfortable at six or five, maybe lower.
The Gospel is inviting us to consider the magnitude of God’s mercy already in our lives rather than the magnitude of a person’s offense against us.
[__03__] What is your or my DEBT CEILING: the maximum frequency of forgiveness?
Is it 6, 7, 70 (seventy) ?
It may seem hard to imagine that we would have to forgive the same person 6, 7, or 70 times.
However, consider that if you were hurt and were troubled and began to think it over every day for a month, or two months, you are now at 60 -- 77 is around the corner.
[__04__] At the end my freshman year in college, one of my classmates and residence-hall neighbors down the corridor, approached to ask me a question.
“I really want to buy a car this summer. Can I borrow two hundred dollars? I’ll pay you back.”
The academic semester had just finished and we were all moving out of the residence hall to return to our respective hometowns. I would return to New Jersey, he was returning to New York.
I thought about it, wondering if this was a good idea, to make this loan to another kid whom I would not see for the rest of May, June, July, August. I would see him, September, at the earliest.
[__05__] I made the loan and gave him (classmate) the two hundred dollars ($200). Over the next several weeks – during the summer – I realized this, maybe, had not been a great idea.
Would I ever see this money again? Would I be paid back? Would he even return to campus in the autumn, in September?
[__06__] Was forgiveness an option? In fact, I came to realize it was my only option. I suggest that FORGIVENESS is not impossible, not the impossible dream. It may seem difficult or expensive, but I suggest it is the only option we can really afford. I considered 2 aspects of the situation: (a) PERSONAL and…. (b) PASSING OF TIME.
First, the PERSONAL. The debt only existed on a balance sheet – as a personal effect between him and me. It was one-on-one. And, while concerned about repayment, I wanted to keep this one-on-one.
That is, I did not want the advice of my mother, father or my friends.
In fact, I did not even tell my parents about this until last week.
But, the issue was one-on-one, personal. Revealing the issue to others was not going to be helpful. Either they would blow it out of proportion or just blow me off and see the issue as random-repayment that may or not happen. Forget about it.
I did not want to forget. I wanted to FORGIVE.
And, this was person-to-person. It helps to pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
SECONDLY. THE PASSING OF TIME.
Yes, over the summer, I thought about the 200-dollar loan at least 7 times, probably more like 77 or 107 times.
However, time was also on my side. And, time is on your side when you are asked to forgive.
Time was on my side because I had time to think. Time was on my side because I was young. And, when you are 19 or 9 or younger, four months – a summer – is a long time. As we grow older, time moves more quickly.
But, at every age – as grown-ups, we are called to remember that a lot can happen, spiritually – personally – in a few months.
The hurt or injury that we might believe that we cannot forgive today… we maybe able to forgive tomorrow, or in a little while.
[__07__] Forgiveness is, at times, expensive. But even if we are trying to turn the other cheek, this does not mean that we should always look the other way.
I believe that we can forgive and still challenge another person to change.
When we admit our faults – or confess our sins – we are seeking forgiveness, not permissiveness or permission.
Forgiveness does not mean that we become an “enabler” …but rather that with compassion we enable the person to “become” … to grow, to change, to love and to know that he or she is loved.
[__08_] During the summer of my two-hundred dollars, I came to the realization that I could and would forgive the debt.
It was, perhaps, also one of my first “adult” decisions about forgiveness.
So, I decided to forgive to not expect repayment. It was in September that Pete returned to campus.
I did not ask about the money, but he remembered and gave me the 200 and even acknowledged my generosity.
Receiving the 200, I felt I had received much more, I felt wealthy.
Mercy makes us rich.