Inconceivable!

Homily for the Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A.

When I was in grade school, if you would have asked me what the longest word in the English language was, or the biggest number that had a name, I would have rattled them off quite easily. I was a big nerd, so I knew the answers to those sorts of questions off the top of my head. As it turns out, the biggest number that has a name in the English language is the number “googolplex.” To give you an idea of just how big this number is, if you were to write it out on paper, the mass of that paper would not only be greater than the mass of our galaxy, but the mass of the entire observable universe. It’s a number that is impossibly huge—one that is absolutely, totally, and in all other ways inconceivable.

At the time of Jesus, the biggest number that had a name in the Greek language was the number “myrias.” It’s from this that we get the English word “myriad.” In Greek, “myrias” literally means “ten-thousand,” but symbolically it means a number that is impossibly huge. Jesus uses this number in our gospel when He speaks about the servant who owed a “huge amount” to the king. Jesus literally says that this servant owed a “myriad of talents.” A myriad of talents, or ten-thousand talents—if you do the math—amounts to over 160,000 years of wages. One talent is worth 6,000 days of wages. Multiply that by 10,000 and you get over 160,000 years of wages. This amount of money, this debt that the servant owes, is impossibly huge; it’s absolutely, totally, and in all other ways inconceivable.

And the servant who owes that debt is us. We are that servant, and the debt is our sins. If we were to catalogue all our sins, writing them down on paper, the mass of that paper would surely be greater not only than the mass of our galaxy, but the mass of the entire observable universe. That is the weight of our sins. It’s impossibly huge; it’s absolutely, totally, and in all other ways inconceivable. And yet the king forgives the servant his debt. And our King, Jesus, forgives the debt of our sins. The king knows that the servant’s promise to repay his debt is an empty promise. He would be long dead before he could do it. And we cannot repay our debt either. Any promise we might make to do so is empty. The wages of sin is death. And we deserve eternal death because of our sins. To sin against an infinite God is to incur an infinite punishment, an infinite debt which we cannot repay. And so Jesus, our King, forgives our debt. And He does so by paying it for us. He was sinless and so He did not deserve to die. But He chose to die in order to pay our debt, to forgive the debt of our sins.

If Jesus forgave the debt of our sins—a debt impossibly huge—a debt absolutely, totally, and in all other ways inconceivable—how can we not forgive our brother who sins against us? The servant in our gospel owed the king over 160,000 years of wages. But he was unwilling to forgive his fellow servant who owed him 100 days of wages. He was forgiven 160,000 years of wages; but he was unwilling to forgive less than a third of a year of wages. There is no debt which anyone owes us which is greater than the debt we owe God. And, yet, how often do we hold on to this debt? How often do we refuse to forgive it like the servant in our gospel?

To be in debt is to be in chains; it is to be bound. Anyone who has a lot of debt knows this to be true. To have our debt forgiven is to have our chains unlocked; it is to be set free. When someone sins against us, they owe us a debt. And they are in chains, they are bound, because of their debt. We, the ones they sinned against, own a key to unlocking their chains. And that key is forgiveness. If we do not use this key to unlock their chains, we will soon find ourselves in chains as well. Unforgiveness is a sin, and it puts us in chains, it binds us, just as surely as any other sin. And, so, forgiveness unlocks not only the chains of the one who sinned against us, but our chains as well. It’s a key which fits into two locks: the lock of our brother’s heart, and the lock of our hearts. Unless we forgive our brother from our heart, we will find our heart just as locked as our brother’s.

Friends, there is a lot of talk these days about freedom. We love our freedoms in this country, and we do not want to lose them. But we will never be free in this country unless we forgive each other. A country that does not forgive is a country that is not free. A country that does not forgive is a country of locked hearts. If we wish to be free, we must forgive. We must use the key of forgiveness, a key which unlocks not only our brother’s heart, but our hearts as well.

Friends, don’t live with a locked heart. Forgive, and be set free. Jesus has forgiven us. And He has forgiven us in way that is absolutely, totally, and in all other ways inconceivable. If He has done this for us, we must also forgive one another. Amen.