Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 13
Let Us Pray That All of God’s Children May, One Day, Be Free from All Bitterness and Resentment, and That Each of Us May Truly Love and Truly Forgive from the Depths of Our Hearts, So That All May Live Together in Peace.
“Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the LORD? Can one refuse mercy to a sinner like oneself, yet seek pardon for one’s own sins?” – questions which we find in our First Reading today.
Many times in my life, I have heard people say, “I cannot forgive my father…I cannot forgive my mother…I cannot forgive my husband, or my wife” – all because the hurt was too great, and they could not forgive because they were not able to love.
Today’s Scripture Readings seem tailor-made for all that is happening in the world today – events of mindless rage, senseless mayhem, even irrational hatred, along with unconscionable and horrifying killings!
God speaks to us from the Book of Sirach today (also called Ecclesiasticus), one of the Wisdom Books of the Old Testament, “Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight. The vengeful will suffer the LORD’s vengeance, for he remembers their sins in detail.”
With all the godlessness which we find occurring throughout our world today, including acts of terrorism against that which we hold to be sacred and violence and intimidation against Christians in the Middle East, along with the hatred which we find in certain Third World regimes against peoples of a different ethnicity, and the hatred in the hearts of many on the streets in cities throughout the world, Peter poses a question in today’s Gospel, a question which strikes at the heart of who we are called to be as a Christian people –
“Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” And Jesus’ answer to Peter implies without limit – “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”
Sometimes, it is so hard to forgive when we have been deeply wounded. And when we speak about human relationships and the deep hurt which is realized within the family environment, it can be even much more difficult to forgive due to a very real personal pain which is inflicted upon those who become victims.
And as I have written before in a previous meditation, when children are involved, the pattern of being unable to forgive oftentimes continues, wherein we hear stories of children, brought up in a one-parent household, who have a very difficult time forgiving the mother or father who left the relationship for whatever reason, or who may have abandoned them.
It is heartbreaking when the child, maybe even now an adult, still cannot deal with a very hurtful and personal situation, and so the relationship between the child and the missing parent remains dysfunctional, because forgiveness becomes an issue with which the child cannot yet come to terms – possibly learned from the behavior he or she witnessed in the parents many years earlier.
We see this even in people who have been sexually abused by someone in whom they had once placed their complete trust – for they are scars which will long be present in the minds and hearts of those who were innocent victims, who had placed an unquestioning trust in those they had once looked up to.
Yet, in today’s Gospel, our Lord teaches us about how our Heavenly Father approaches forgiveness. If one humbly comes forward, with a truly contrite heart and a firm purpose of amending his or her life, God does not hesitate to grant us absolution from our sins. And we read today, “Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him.”
However, only God can read the human heart, and if all we do is mouth the words of sorrow, but with no real intent on changing our lives, then, as Scripture tells us today, “Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.”
Our lives are not our own. Not only are we children of God, we are also brothers and sisters of one another. And when we are deeply offended by a brother or sister, our Lord preached very specifically about mercy, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”
None of us is an “island unto ourselves”, for each and every one of us is called by God to be the extension of His Love in this very difficult world in which we live. We are called to live our lives in love, for as Paul tells us today, “None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord.”
It is when we fail to live this love, it is when we fail to live the virtues of mercy and forgiveness in our lives that John reminds us in his First Letter, with words which are very specific and to the point, “Whoever hates his brother is in darkness; he walks in darkness and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”
In our individual walks of faith, let us pray that all of God’s children may, one day, be free from all bitterness and resentment, and that each of us may truly love and truly forgive from the depths of our hearts, so that each and every one of us may live together in a peace which can only come as an eternal gift from God’s Spirit of Love and Truth.
Near the end of today’s First Reading, we are reminded of God’s expectations of each of us – expectations which call us to live each day as if it were our last, always remembering that our final moment is known only to God –
“Remember your last days and set enmity aside; remember death and decay, and cease from sin!”
May God bless you, God love you, and may God always keep you. †
Please Comment, Like and Share, and Suggest to your Facebook friends – to spread the message of God’s Merciful Love.
Por favor Comente, Le Gusta y Comparta, y Sugiera a tus amigos en Facebook – en difundir el mensaje del Misericordioso Amor de Dios.
Scripture for the Day
- “Wrath and anger, these also are abominations, yet the sinner holds on to them. The vengeful will face the LORD’s vengeance, indeed he remembers their sins in detail.” (Sirach 27:30;28:1)
- “Does anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the LORD? Can one refuse mercy to a sinner like oneself, yet seek pardon for one’s own sins?” (Sirach 28:3-4)
- “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” (Matthew 5:43-45)
- “Whoever hates his brother is in darkness; he walks in darkness and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (1 John 2:11)
- “None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” (Romans 14:7-8)
- “Why then do you judge your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God.” (Romans 14:10)
- “Be merciful, just as also your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven…For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” (Luke 6:36-37, 38c)
- “Remember your last days and set enmity aside; remember death and decay, and cease from sin!” (Sirach 28:6)
Prayer for the Day
“Lord, Remember not only the men and women of good will but all those of ill will.
“Do not only remember all the sufferings
they have subjected us to.
“Remember the fruits we brought forth thanks to this suffering –
Our courage and generosity,
the greatness of heart that all of this inspired.
“And when they come to judgment, let all those fruits we have borne be their reward and their forgiveness. Amen.”a prayer found on the body of a young child
(from the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp in North Germany
during World War II)