Sirach 27: 30 – 28:77 – Romans 14: 7-9 – Matthew 18: 21-35
Like many of you, I suspect, I have been troubled over the years with coming to a good understanding of forgiveness. It is easy to identify with Peter in the Gospel passage we heard as he raises the question of how often we must forgive. Imagine having our own dialogue with God about that neighbor who is a real pest, or a spouse who drives us up a wall, or a boss who just will not let up, or that kid, whether our own or a neighbor’s, who tries one’s patience to the limit. How often do I have to forgive? There must be a limit. The response: there is no limit. This is to be the case whether or not the person is contrite and asks for forgiveness. The attitude that we must have is not to be revenge in some form, but forgiveness.
In God’s speaking to us through the Scripture, we are give three reasons for such an attitude to be considered.
In the Gospel parable that Jesus tells, the reason we are to forgive others comes from our recognition that we all need forgiveness. The failure of the first servant mentioned is that he refused to extend the same forgiveness he had received. Both of the servants had failed to repay what they owed. But the one forgiven was unwilling to show this same attitude toward his fellow servant who owed him a debt. Each of us is to recognize that we are to forgive because we ourselves often are in need of forgives from God and from others.
The wise man Sirach offers a second reason for forgiveness. Does one harbor anger against another but expect healing from God? We are to forgive others because the Lord is constantly willing to forgive us. God’s mercy and love for us is unquestioned and unlimited. As followers of Jesus Christ, we profess to make his life our own. If this is genuine on our part, then we must show this forgiveness in our lives. Jesus taught us to pray, and we say so often: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
From Saint Paul we receive a third reason for the attitude of forgiveness. None of us is master of our own life. The Lord is. Each of us is equal before God, equal in our need for God’s mercy and forgiveness. We are all servants of the Lord. We are all to appear before God to render an account of our lives. None of us is in the position to judge or condemn another. All of us are to forgive as we trust we will be forgiven.
Clearly, then, fogginess is to be present and is to be limitless for us as followers of Christ.
The insight into forgiveness that I gained during the past year is that the first step to forgiveness is not to allow ourselves to be controlled by whatever may have happened to us. We may not be able to forget a hurt or a slight or whatever another may have done. But we can begin to forgive if we do not allow whatever it might happen to be to affect and to control how we choose to live and to act, even toward that particular individual.
In calling us to forgive in this way, Jesus calls on us to reflect genuinely and completely the mercy, the loving-kindness, the forgiveness of our good and gracious God.
Ezechiel 33: 7-9 – Romans 13: 8-10 – Matthew 18: 15-20
Over the past months during which we have been struggling with the coronavirus, we have often heard from various sources that “we are in this together.” We may have thought that this encouragement was politically or governmentally or commercially based in some fashion. The reality is, however, that this way of thinking has its roots in Christian tradition or, better, in Judeo-Christian tradition. God’s communication with us, in the words of Scripture we heard today, brings this out.
Ezechiel, the Old Testament prophet, was told to be a watchman over others. He was to speak out and correct others or he would fail in his responsibility. Saint Paul summarizes all of the admonitions he had just give on about how to be a follower of Christ with the counsel to love our neighbor, to respect all and everyone who is a part of our lives.
Recognizing that we are in this “together,” in life itself “together”is central to the Gospel message we heard today, and central to being followers of Christ. It is what is essential to denial of self and embracing the cross. Why is this so? It is the fundamental way that we show our understanding that we live in a relationship with God and not as individuals alone, one-on-one. It is a relationship as a people, as a community of believers. We rely on one another. We are, as we profess in the Apostles’ Creed, a “Communion of Saints” – persons striving together for holiness. This is how we are to understanding the revelation of God’s love for us as well as understanding how best we are to live out the effect of that love.
When we fail to live out this relationship, this commitment of our Faith, it is in the dynamic of the community of believers, the Church, that healing and reconciliation take place. If such a relationship cannot be achieved with one another, then it cannot be expected that it will truly happen with God.
In many ways this may seem to go against that so-called “individualism” we often cherish. But if we truly understand how our God, our loving Creator and Source of life, is revealed and is to be known and loved, or how a true relationship with God, with all of the benefits it has for us, is to be experienced, we will realize that it is in the context of others, of the community of believers that we are. We come to know and appreciate God, not alone, but with others. It takes others, gathered together, living and expressing Faith, to make the full depth and full richness of God known to us. No one of us reveals the totality of the love of our God. Thus, in this body of believers that we are, this Church that we are, that we have the opportunity to experience our God.
In and through the community of believers, the Church, the presence and the love of our God is revealed to us. In and through the community of believers, the Church, we encounter, we are touched, we are nourished by our God. In and through the community of believers, the Church, with its strengths and with its weaknesses, in our common human condition as well as our Faith, that God is known.
As Church we are to be the ideal of how the world as a whole is to live. As a community of believers we are to be an example to one another and to the world. It is as the community of Faith-filled persons, joined together, and united as one, as we so often pray, that we reveal to the world a truly good and gracious God.
Jeremiah 20: 7-9 – Romans 12: 1-2 – Matthew 6: 21-27
We have to give credit to the writers of the Gospels that they do not hesitate to remind us that we share with the Apostles Jesus chose the fact of being genuine human beings, with all the faults and failings that may be involved.. Today St. Matthew presents us with the example of St. Peter. Simon Peter had just declared Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Immediately afterward, he is rebuked for the reaction he made to Jesus when it is described what would be involved. Peter is reminded that he is responding in a typically human fashion rather than in accord with God’s will and saving plan. Jesus then tells the Apostles, and us, that in order to follow him, we must deny ourselves and take up the cross. These are familiar phrases. We have heard them often. Perhaps, however, they are too familiar and too easily simplified. How can we grow in our understanding of them?
To “deny ourselves” is not simply the idea of giving something up of whatever sort. To deny ourselves is to experience a complete sense of conversion. It means doing away, as best we can, with typically human ways of acting. To deny ourselves entails, as Jesus states, changing ourselves rather than thinking we can change God to fit our own purposes. In essence, it includes recognizing our own nothingness before God and abandoning our selfish and self-serving desires.
To “take up the cross” is often simplified when we think of it in terms of certain realities of life such as illness, injuries, our lot in life, as “crosse” we need to bear. Taking up the cross, rather, ought to be understood as “embracing the cross” and joining in the saving action of Christ. On the cross is seen the totality of God’s love for all of humanity and all of creation. It is that same love that is to be evident in our lives. The experience of God will be through us when we are united with the total self-giving on the cross.
What, then, does it mean fully to “follow” Christ? It involves, more than anything else, bringing the presence of Christ into every aspect of our lives. To follow Christ is to identify completely with Christ’s thinking and actions that reveal the Father, God. All of this demands a risk on our part. Thus we have also presented to us today the example of Jeremiah the prophet. He was being called upon to act in a way that was almost completely opposite of what he wanted. The cost of discipleship is so great that it even demands the giving up of life. This is not necessarily meant in a literal sense of physically dying for Christ although, as we know and have heard, in parts of the world even today this is true. Giving up our lives,, giving up the way we might want to live, does mean letting go of self-satisfying demands and judgements. If I am sincere in reflecting Christ in the midst of people, the decisions I make, the actions I perform, the words I speak, the attitude I show are all directed at making our loving God to be known, as was the whole direction of the ministry of Jesus Christ. It is in doing this that we incorporate in ourselves St. Pail’s admonitions: do not conform to the world, but conform to Christ; do not be afraid to bee transformed, to be changed, to be different; recognized what has genuine value and importance rather than what is superficial and transitory.
To deny ourselves, to take up the cross, to follow in ministry of Jesus, is what will reveal to ourselves and to our world the reality and the effect in us of our relationship with our good and gracious God.
Isaiah 22: 19-23 – Romans 11: 33-36 – Matthew 16: 13-20
Like a burst of sudden inspiration, in the midst of lamenting the rejection of Jesus by his own Jewish people, Paul realized this gave him the opportunity to proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles. Paul thus exclaims:
How deep are the riches, the wisdom, the knowledge of God!
How beyond our comprehension is God’s love!
How beyond our limited human vision is God’s care for us!
How beyond understanding are the majesty and mystery of God’s creation!
Despite whatever we might be experiencing now, all of creation calls us to grow in our love and appreciation of God.
How might these powerful thoughts of Saint Paul, however, fit in with the other passages from Scripture that we have heard today? How do the act of faith and the conferral of authority to Peter, as well as the parallel account from the Old Testament about the passing of authority from one individual to another, relate to Paul’s exclamation?
I would suggest that they call on us to consider that the riches, wisdom of God can be found in what we are as Church, as a body of believers. In many respects the very experience of these last few months has made this clear to me. The was true in the absence of the public celebration of Mass as well as in when were able to resume this public celebration of the Eucharist. It is evident to me in the attendance of those of you who have been present as well as in missing those who are still reluctant to join us for any number of reason. It has led me to a greater appreciation of the intimacy of a relationship God seeks with us as a people who share God’s presence in Word, in Sacrament and in one another.
In the dialog between Jesus and his apostles, Jesus seeks to know if they recognize who he is. Peter, as we heard, speaks up and declares clearly the faith that is theirs. Jesus responds with his own declaration that we understand as establishing the body, the physical reality, of the Church. He empowers this body of believers to act on his behalf in forgiveness and reconciliation, and so carry on his ministry to the world.
In the account we also heard from Isaiah, the prophet, we are reminded of the importance of keys, the symbol used by Christ in replying to Peter. Keys empower Peter and enable those joined with Peter and the Apostles as Church to provide access to our loving God and access to all that the relationship with God involves. In the Word that we share God speaks to us. In the Sacraments we celebrate, God’s presence is experienced in a very real and substantial way in the various aspects of our lives. In assembling with one another, we are one with Christ who promised to be present where tow or three are gathered in his name.
This is what we are as this people, as this Body that is the Church. Having been, and still being reminded of this gift to us and its value for us, we, too, can exclaim: how deep are the riches, the wisdom and the knowledge of our good and gracious God!
St Mel Church will be offering in-person PSR classes for students in grades K-8 for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year. The safety and health of our students and staff is our top priority. All PSR classes will be held in the small and large halls as always, but with social distancing practices in place. These include, specific seating arrangements and establishing at least a 6ft space between students and staff as well as increased sanitizing of all tables and chairs. At this time, while we love parents and other family members coming inside to visit, we will limit the access to the halls to only the students participating in class. I will have somebody assigned at the door at both arrival and dismissal to be sure your student is safe coming to and from class. We also ask that every student wear a mask throughout all of PSR and if your child is ill, please keep them home as all work can be made up.
For PSR registration night, I will have all forms available for you to take home to fill out and send back on the first night of PSR with your child. This will eliminate any congregating in the small hall of parents filling out paperwork. All PSR classes, including registration, will continue to be held on Tuesday evenings from 6 PM to 7 PM. PSR registration will be held Tuesday September 15, 2020 and registration paperwork will be available for pick up in the small hall from 6 PM to 7 PM. The first PSR class will be Tuesday September 22, 2020.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Laura Ferguson at 216-904-6865.