September 16-17: Preparing to Celebrate Sunday’s Mass

We would never want to point fingers at anyone, obviously, but let’s be honest: we commit sins every day and, hence, we need God’s forgiveness every day. That honest admission might be helpful to remember as we prepare for Sunday’s Mass.

In the parable which we will share at Mass (from Matthew 18, 21-35), the first servant (a top official of the king), owed his master 10,000 talents, an incredible debt. The English translation says “a huge amount,” but the Greek text uses an actual number of talents (units of money). The “talent” was the largest currency unit in the whole of the ancient Near East. Some scholars suggest that the modern equivalent of the debt in question would be in the many millions of dollars! Surely, Christ is exaggerating here – in order to make a point (exaggeration is a device often used in parables). Many of the same scholars suggest that this debt was an amount equivalent to 15 years of wages to a laborer in that day. So, the first servant would have needed 15 years to pay off the debt. Thus, the exaggeration by Jesus is meant to show us that this man was “hopelessly indebted.”

The “twist” in the story, also a frequent device used in parables, is that the other servant owed three months of work. And yet, the first servant was merciless – although he had been treated with supreme mercy himself.  When we pray, “Forgive us our trespasses (debts) as we forgive those who trespass against us” what do we really mean? Are those just words … or would we do well to take them to heart and begin to really live by them?

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