This morning’s parable is full of outlandish details. The first servant owes his master what would be about $600,000, equivalent to 160,000 days wages in Jesus’ day. His fellow servant owes him just 100 denarii - about $20; that was 100 day’s wages. That’s a lot too, but there’s no comparison. The message is clear. And we cringe when that dumb servant who’s been forgiven so much can’t forgive the smaller debt owed him. We know he is a fool who doesn’t know enough to do as has been done to him. Empowered by the compassion of his master, he sees himself as entitled now to push other people around. He doesn’t get it.
This parable is ultimately a wisdom tale, begging us to choose rightly. With a grateful heart, aware of all that God gives and forgives, we are invited to gratefully go and do likewise - to love as God loves, to forgive as God forgives - without measure. And when so much mercy has been lavished upon me over and over again, since Jesus places no limits on his forgiveness, how can I not forgive, not love, not show mercy and compassion? That would simply be ungrateful and so foolish.
When it comes to love and compassion, mercy and forgiveness, God always overdoes it. That's how love operates; it expresses the "economy of gift, the logic of abundance." When we ask for forgiveness, God says, “I remember your sin no longer”? There is no proportion in it. It is pure gift. And the reality of this excess and superfluity, this too-muchness of God, runs through the whole of salvation history. And it all reaches its perfection in Jesus. This too-muchness of God is perfectly expressed in him, in his signs and words, in his passion, dying and resurrection. It is Jesus who reveals this boundlessness and immeasurability of God's love and compassion and forgiveness.
And so once again this morning Jesus will fill us with an infinity of compassion, more than we deserve, in the Eucharist; squandering himself, becoming our food so that he can be dissolved in us. It's what he did on the cross, giving everything, even forgiving his tormentors. It's what lovers do; loving without measure, losing themselves. Jesus assures us that kind of self-forgetfulness is possible for us - with him.
Photograph by Brother Brian. Excerpts from this morning's homily with some insights from Gerhard Lohfink, Jesus of Nazareth, pp. 242ff.