Sermon for the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost – November 17, 2019 by Monsignor Perez
*Remember to pick up your calendar for the coming year. Monsignor worked very hard to prepare this for our parish. As Monsignor said at Mass, “It is a journey on which the Liturgical Year takes our souls on throughout the entire year”.
Monsignor began the sermon by reciting the Hail Mary.
My dear faithful, what I am going to talk about today is the gospel from two weeks ago. It’s not that I like it better than today’s gospel but I find that it was one of those gospels that for years you can skim over the surface of and not really get the fullness of what Our Lord was saying and so I want everybody to hear the sermon I have written on this particular gospel. If you were at the 12:30 Mass two weeks ago you would have heard this sermon but as they say, “Where we go one we go all” so you have to suffer through it again and maybe you will pick up something you didn’t hear the first time.
Just to refresh your memories I’ll read part of the gospel for you. It was about –
“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 has 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. But that servant falling down besought him saying: Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And the lord of that servant, being moved with pity, let him go and forgave him the debt. But when that servant was gone out, he found one of his fellow-servants that owed him a hundred pence: and laying hold of him, he throttled him, saying: Pay what thou owest. 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. 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 saith 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? And his lord being angry delivered him to the torturers until he paid all the debt. So also shall my heavenly Father do to you, if you forgive not every one of his brothers from your hearts.”
Okay, so we are familiar with the scene but the part we skim over is that this guy owed him ten thousand talents, that’s a lot of money, and he owed this other guy not very much money. But there is way more to it than that. Of course in this parable the king is God but the point of it comes in the amount of the debt. Now any of us who has a credit card – they issue this ridiculous statement at the end of every month and it says (this is the minimum you have to pay and if you pay this minimum it is going to be 37 years until you pay it off if you don’t charge anything else). So you don’t do that! But look at the debt that was incurred here. The servant owed to his master, his king, ten thousand talents and I want to tell you what a talent is because I don’t think too many people here actually would know. A talent is a measure that was used in Roman times and these things are hard to translate exactly but it doesn’t have to be exact for you to get the picture. A talent, one talent – remember, he owed him 10,000 – one talent is 20 years’ wages for an average person. That means 10,000 talents is 200,000 years wages. In today’s money that is over 16 BILLION dollars.
Understand this: This figure used by Our Lord was meant to show not just that he owed his master, his king, a lot of money but, in fact, he owed him a debt he could not pay. No one could pay that. There was no lotto. There’s been no lottery to date that was 16 billion dollars, although one of these days it will probably happen, but you cannot pay that back.
So what we get into at the very beginning is the very purpose of the Incarnation of God the Son, His passion and His death, paying the price, His Holy Sacrifice, for our sins. Why? Because when Adam sinned but also when we sin, we get a debt that we cannot pay. We can’t pay it. See, that was the point. Adam was a man, a pure man. He incurred a debt because he offended the Infinite God. God is Infinite. When you offend the Infinite it is an infinite offense. So here’s the problem: man had incurred a debt that was impossible for him to pay. What it took for that debt to be paid was God Himself taking flesh and suffering and being crucified and dying to pay that debt. It was a debt incurred by man against the Infinite God that only the Infinite God as man could pay back. And that is what is buried in this parable here.
Now a couple of things about it because the striking thing is the other servant owed him a little bit which was a reasonable amount that somebody could pay. So the king had the guy thrown into prison and his wife and his children and took everything he had and sold it. And you are going to say, Well, his poor wife. Well, that was thrown in there because they were accessories – the wife and children were accessories to his sins. They contributed to his sins, they approved of them, all the ways that you can participate in the sin of another. Remember those from the catechism — by silence, by encouraging the person or by trying to get them to do it. There are several of them. So that’s why the wife and children were involved there.
The point that is made is if the Infinite God who is offended by our sin forgives us – every time you go into confession whatever you have done by the fruits of the passion, death and resurrection of Our Lord ministered to you by the priest, you are forgiven by the Infinite God whatever it is that you did. And you are meant to understand that. Why? Because we hold things against people who do stuff to us. Right? How many times do you hear, Oh, I can’t forgive them for doing XYZ. So just a few short words on what can be done about that.
Some things that people can’t forgive are old wounds and that takes a bit more meditation and prayer and the grace of God. I always say, you have to do like a mini retreat on some things. I don’t mean you have to go anywhere, but you definitely have to apply some spiritual principals and work on it. So some are old wounds. You had an abusive parent, rotten parent; some member of the family that did you a lot of dirt or whatever over a period of time. Usually these debts we incur began with some kind of anger. So quickly, just a couple of counsels on anger.
Now there are different kinds of anger and I don’t mean the kind where you are surprised by something or drop your favorite cup and it goes into a million pieces and it was your grandmothers and you let some word fly that you didn’t intend to. No, that’s not what I’m talking about. Some people have this thing with anger and that anger will lead to a condition where it will be very hard to forgive people. So first take St. Paul’s advice, never let the sun set on your anger. If you have someone you are angry with you resolve that at least in your own mind before you go to bed. Some people have a habitual problem with anger and to them I say – I know because they come in and they say oh, I have this problem with anger. Okay, here’s what anger is like when you have a habitual problem and you are always angry about something. Anger is like the freight train. Everybody knows what the freight train is because it’s what crosses the street in front of you right when you are in a hurry and there’s 67,000 cars and there’s graffiti on every one of them that’s not even an interesting amusement while you’re watching this stupid thing go by. So what do you do? Well, these freight cars, you don’t stop them. Like if you stepped in front of a freight train they don’t just put on the brake and say, okay, I stopped! You don’t stop it.
So if you are on the railroad tracks is what anger is like, you’re on the tracks and you hear that blasted horn that goes off at 3:30 in the morning, you hear the blasted horn from miles away and you know the train is coming. So what do you do? This is anger; you know the anger is coming. You know your sister, your wife or your husband they push your buttons so you know this anger is coming, right? boom, boom boom Nobody can push buttons like your relatives because they know where your buttons are hidden. So do you stay on the track or do you get off it? Those are your choices. You hear the train coming which means you feel this anger; you know this is going to lead to anger. Do you get off the track? You’d better get off the track. It’s the solution. If you stay on it the train is going to run you over and you’re going to be angry and you’ll sin against charity. When you get angry you lose! Just remember that. When they succeed in the button pushing you lose when you get angry.
Other things are just as trying. You always hear this : Well, they cut me off on the road and I got angry. Well, I’ve been cut off too on the road. Sometimes I have to wonder about the person’s driving. Now if you’re going 45 in the fast lane you’re going to get cut off and people are going to be really mad at you. Okay? Well, that’s a separate thing. But when you get cut off on the road or whatever happens that makes you mad – people saying or doing things – sometimes it seems to be especially true while driving, but in other cases also. And I had one of these last week let me tell you!!! This was a real one. You hear stories about being cut off. I was actually in the slow lane going to Northridge and there was one car ahead of me, this Mercedes van that must have cost a million but it pulled into the slow lane all of a sudden in front of the cars. It was there and it just cut in. Everyone screeched on their brakes, they swerved to the left, the one ahead of me. I swerved to the right. When we caught our breath – I didn’t say any words actually. I said What on earth is this, right? Because that’s what this training will do for you after a while, believe me. So I drove by and it’s this Muslim woman dressed in a burka talking on her iPhone. I don’t even think she was looking at the road. I don’t think she knows there was a road.
The point I am trying to make is these things happen on the road and other places. Think about this. Usually when somebody does something like that on the road and I see it, trying to pull into your lane and not knowing you’re there. Think about it. Except for what that crazy driver did, I have done all those things at one point or another and so have you. You check your mirror, you think there’s no one there, you go to get in the lane, you can’t see that they actually one lane over and are going to get in that lane, and all of a sudden you have a problem. Hopefully you don’t hit each other but you get all mad. Well, it was as much my fault as it was their fault. Most things that people do to you to upset you or even offenses against you that we need to forgive are things that we have done ourselves. And whether we’ve done those things ourselves or not, we have done things that we have asked the Lord’s forgiveness for and He has given us that forgiveness freely and graciously and abundantly every time we ask for it.
Now the end of this is a warning. This is the thing you have to meditate on. You have to think, is there somebody I’m not forgiving? Is there something I hold against somebody and am having trouble forgiving? Here’s where the meditation comes in. So you sort that out and then you think, if I don’t forgive them, you know what’s going to happen to me? God forgave me everything that caused His Incarnation and His scourging at the pillar and His crowing of thorns and Him being nailed to a cross and dying on it. He forgave me that and I’m holding this against somebody? Well, not only is that not a good idea but it is specifically not a good idea because of what will happen to us if we do not forgive those little trespasses. Just remember when we pray, I’ve said it before but I’m going to remind you because it’s germane and it’s that we pray the Our Father. And every time we pray the Our Father we say in one of the lines Lord, I want you to forgive me what I’ve done against you in the same way and to the same measure that I forgive people who have done things against me. We are praying that and so we had better get darned good at forgiving people who trespass against us because everything depends on that, everything! We will be given to the torturers if not thrown in hell period for holding those things against somebody else.
I just wanted to boil that down for you because what I found fascinating was what a talent was. Who knew what a talent was? Everybody thinks a talent is like a hundred bucks and, yeah, that sounds about right. No! Twenty years’ wages and Our Lord purposely made this an unpayable, unfathomable debt. Also the equivalent at the time a Roman measure, seventy-five pounds of gold was one talent. So think about that. Practically Fort Knox when you translate it.
So my dear faithful, that is it. Say the Our Father and as often as you say it, remember the line you are saying. Meditate if you have anything you are holding against anybody. Let that go. Final note to letting things go – what works for me doesn’t work for everybody but it’s all I got. This is what I’ve worked out over the years. My mom’s Italian, you know. I go from zero to sixty in like 3.4 seconds or milliseconds even. When you are having trouble forgiving especially, this sometimes works with the old debts, somebody did you a lot of dirt, really hurt you or bad parent or something like that. You picture bundling it all up and you just hand it to Our Lord. Say Jesus, I can’t deal with this. I’m having such trouble but I’m going to give it to You and You take care of it for me. I’m going to forget about it because I’ve given the whole bundle to you and I am going to carry on. That works for me, and if it works for you, please do that. Just picture yourself, Lord, here is all this stuff, this person did all this, whatever they did – it is all Yours to deal with now and I’m going to move on.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.