Homily by Fr. Myroslav Vons on the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
August 20, 2023
’So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.’ (Matt. 18:35)
Today’s Gospel speaks about mercy, hardened hearts, and justice. In the parable, we read about a person who owed a debt to a master. The master demands repayment, but the debtor pleads for patience, asking for forgiveness and promising to repay everything.
What does the master do? He forgives the debt and releases the debtor. At first glance, it seems simple. The servant was at fault, the master was in a good mood, and he granted this gift. However, delving into the numbers provided by the Gospel, the situation appears different.
The servant owed 10,000 talents. In those times, one talent could buy approximately 400 sheep. So, 10,000 talents * 400 sheep = 4,000,000 sheep. For comparison, there are 25 million sheep in the entire New Zealand today.
One talent in those times was equivalent to about 36 kg of gold. Therefore, the master gifted the servant around 360,000 kg of gold. Quite a generous gift the master bestowed upon his servant, isn’t it?
Knowing these figures, we can see the immense generosity and mercy of the master, who showed more than the servant expected — he forgave the debt, even though the servant only asked for an extension.
Meanwhile, this servant, who should have rejoiced and celebrated the great mercy he received from the master, sees his fellow servant who owed him a mere 100 denarii and attacks him. The servant, who should have gone home to gather his friends, wife, and children to celebrate and glorify the master’s great mercy, instead, in anger, assaults his debtor and demands payment. The servant, who nearly lost his freedom, home, and family, forgets all this in a moment, ignores pleas, and seizes everything from his fellow servant.
The merciful master learns of this situation. Disappointed by the unworthy behavior of the servant, he says, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow servant, even as I had mercy on you?’
Something similar happens in our spiritual life. We commit actions that offend the Lord and our neighbors. We sin. We have the opportunity to approach the Sacrament of Confession, repent, and seek forgiveness from God. The Lord forgives us completely in Confession. The amount doesn’t matter: whether it’s 100 denarii or 10,000 talents. The Lord is merciful when we ask for forgiveness and genuinely repent for our sins.
And what do we do with the gift, the mercy that the Lord grants us in our lives? Do we extend His mercy through acts of kindness — helping the needy, forgiving those who wronged us, dedicating our time to God on Sundays and holidays by attending Holy Liturgy? Or do we, like that servant, direct our lives towards condemning others, sowing discord, and falling into the slavery of sin instead of glorifying the Lord for His works?
We return to the foundation that the Gospel of Matthew teaches us — our faith. If the servant truly believed for a moment in what happened, if his heart wasn’t as hardened, if he knew how to be grateful for this second chance to live a joyful life, then, I believe, seeing his fellow servant, he would have embraced him, shared his joy, and forgiven that paltry debt. He would have lifted him from his knees, embraced him, and forgotten the debt. But unfortunately, it didn’t happen. In the Gospel of Matthew, we read, ‘So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.’
In conclusion, is it possible to forgive or ask for forgiveness? Is it easy? No, it’s not easy; taking that first step is very difficult. But we are not alone on this journey — Jesus Christ is always with us. He not only taught with words but also through the example of His entire life. Even when He was tortured and crucified, He asked the Father, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’
Let us pray sincerely that God grants us the gift of mercy, a humble heart, and spiritual peace. We also pray daily in the Lord’s Prayer: ‘And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.’ Amen.