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Select Homily
September, 17 2017

24th Sunday of Ordinary Time (A)

Dr. Susan Fleming McGurgan


He let him go, and forgave the loan.


I can just imagine the whispers

that raced through the palace.

The disbelief,

the gossip,

the envy.


After all, the servant owed, “a huge amount”.   

Probably more money than any of them would see in a lifetime.  

Enough money

to live their wildest dreams.

So much money,

that forgiveness would seem impossible.


And yet the King forgave the loan and let him go!


The King didn’t force his servant to stay

and grovel and pay tribute to his generosity.

He didn’t lecture him on financial responsibility

or set up a payment schedule.

He didn’t hold out mercy with one hand

and exact vengeance with the other.

He didn’t send him on his way--free,

yet bound by guilt and fear.


He forgave the loan and let him go.


Reason tells us

this was not a reasonable response.

Logic tells us

that the logical response would be,

“Pay me what you owe me!”

After all, isn’t that justice?

Common sense tells us

that many people who listened to Jesus that day,  

shook their heads at the King’s folly.

After all, a debt is a debt

and the King should have known better.

That servant just wasn’t a good risk. 


Forgiveness didn’t make him 

wise or kind or even grateful.


and faced with a debtor of his own,

he shouted, “Pay back what you owe me!”


That part of this parable seems all too familiar.

Sometimes, like the servant in the Gospel, 

the people we forgive

don’t seem worthy of our mercy.

They just aren’t good risks.

Is he sincere? 

Has she really changed?

How long will it be

before they hurt me again?

While it may be noble to bury the hatchet,

we can’t help thinking

that sometimes it’s prudent to mark the spot. 


Like Peter,

we want to set limits;

logical, reasonable, even generous limits on our mercy.

“How many times, Lord, must I forgive?

One?—Seven?” After all, seven times is a lot!

More than enough!

If you hurt me--seven times,

and I forgive you--seven times,

then maybe,

just maybe,

I’m a fool.


And in our fear of looking foolish, 

we cry out with the servant,

“Pay back what you owe me!”


There are times

when it’s easier to simply deny the pain

and bypass forgiveness. 

We race from hurt to healing

and point with pride

to the band-aids that decorate our grief.

If we can just be strong enough,

if the bandages hold,

there’s nothing to forgive!


The problem with forgiveness

is that it seems to run counter to our instincts.

It challenges us to give more than we planned,

more than we wanted

more than we think we can.


It tugs us

and pulls us

and leads us in our pain

to an even more painful place—

a place where we are invited to uncover our hurt,

and to look at our wounds

and with God’s help, 

cancel the debt, and let them go.


Forgiveness is a journey that leads into the heart of a mystery—

On that journey,

we are invited to look deep,

not only at those we would forgive,

but into ourselves.


Forgiveness becomes real

only when we discover

that the sins of our brothers and sisters

are alive in us. 


In that moment,

we come to understand

that forgiveness cannot be measured,

or counted

or rationed.

It is not a single heroic act,

but an on-going journey of redemption

that begins in the heart of God.


God’s love for us

is never reasonable

or logical

or based in common sense.


We can shake our heads at God’s folly,

but good risk or bad,

there are no limits to His forgiveness and mercy.

Like the servant in the parable,

we have been let go; set free; released.

We are free to love, free to live…

free to offer others the mercy extended to us.  





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