Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).
A Debt-Free Life
Today we heard the second version of the Our Father, the Lucan version, the version according to St. Luke. This is not the version we use in our prayers. We use the Matthean version or the version according to St. Matthew. What's the difference? There are a few differences but most of the words are the same. For one, the ending "For yours is the kingdom, and the power and the glory, forever. Amen." is not in the version read today. We do not use this ending in our common prayer because it has been found to be an addition only, not really written by St. Matthew but it has been incorporated in our Mass, as a fitting ending to our prayer for peace.
Another difference and this time it is a significant difference is in the petition where we say "Forgive us our trespasses". Today we did not hear this petition. We heard rather another petition: "Forgive us our sins". This is the petition in the original Greek in the Gospel of Luke, it asks for forgiveness of our sins. Some people put this as their petition in the Our Father that they recite. They say, "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sinned against us". The first part follows the Lucan version we heard today. The second part "as we forgive those who sinned against us" is not in the Gospel of St. Luke. It has been put there by people who want to make a parallel phrase after the first part: forgive us our sins as we forgive the sins. So here there is a balance. God forgives our sins, we also forgive the sins of people towards us.
The second part of that petition to forgive us our sins is what we heard today, "for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us." And this second part tells us the mind of Jesus concerning debts. In both versions of the Our Father, that of St. Luke and that of St. Matthew, Jesus is concerned with debts. Since the version of St. Luke was later than that of St. Matthew it is safe to say that the original words of Jesus were really about debts, but the Church in the time of Luke edited this word to become "sins". Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit this editing was still valid.
It is unfortunate that the English Our Father as it has come down to us has "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespassed against us". The original Greek has "debts" instead of "trespasses". In the website catholic.com Jan Wakelin says that it is only English Catholics who use the word "trespasses" instead of "debts". Then he rationalizes why "trespasses" is a better word than "debts".
But as we will soon show, Jesus meant "debts", not trespasses. Simply stated, Jesus wanted us his followers to be free from debts. This is also what St. Paul the Apostle told us through the Romans, "Owe no debt to anyone except the debt that binds us to love one another" (13:8 NAB).
In the Our Father Jesus is teaching us to ask God, his Father and our Father, to take away our debts. This is the intent of that petition in the Our Father. Jesus knew the burden of debts. And he used stories to show how people can be enslaved by debts, both by borrowing from someone and by holding on to what we have lent to someone.
In Luke's version of the Our Father Jesus takes for granted already that his followers have obeyed his command to give and not to expect something in return. This is because the second part of the petition says, "for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us." This is already a statement of fact. We ourselves already forgive those indebted to us.
To prove that this was the attitude of Jesus toward debts, we read his other statements. He said, "Give to the man who begs from you. Do not turn your back on the borrower." (Matthew 5:42). Then in Luke he says, "lend without expecting repayment. Then will your recompense be great. You will rightly be called sons of the Most High, since he himself is good to the ungrateful and the wicked." (6:35).
In short Jesus wants a debt-free life for his followers. Of course this is difficult to follow during our time when almost every business is tied to a debt, either to start the business or keep it operating, or both. What we can say is that in the kingdom of God, that is, in a life under the lordship of Jesus the ideal is that his followers do not have personal debts. This is because God delivers them from debts and sins as they pray the Our Father and also because they give without expecting anything in return, as Jesus taught us to do.
Let us pray the prayer Jesus taught us, this time, with full attention on what we are praying. Let us bow our heads.
Father, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread
and forgive us our sins
for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,
and do not subject us to the final test. (NABRE)