September 13, 2020
The Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity
(Romans 14:7-9; Matthew 18:21-35)
How do you envision in your minds the passage we have just heard? Do you visualize Jesus and His disciples sitting on a mountain side conversing with one another and asking our Lord questions? Are they sitting around a bonfire, or maybe huddled in someone’s home? Are they conversing about the day’s events? Or maybe they are in awe over the many miracles their Lord has performed and thus transfixed on Jesus wondering who He really is? Many a theologian and historian have wondered if these men ever worked after meeting Jesus and just how their means of living were supplied if so.
College students tend to like to gather in groups and discuss life and things like philosophy. Of course, if they have their room and board paid for and don’t have a job, one could suppose they have ample time between meager work-study hours and what little studying they think they need to make a high-B in their classes. They have time to ask big questions about life, sitting around on the lawn in front of the campus and merely pulling them out of the air and discussing in length.
Of course, our disciples were not hashing out topics after leaving their Philosophy 101 class. These men were men who did hard work and have done so most of their lives. Labor intensive jobs that most likely showed with crusty dirty hands and feet. So, academic like questions surely didn’t occur to them. Their questions were most likely based on some aspect or factor in their lives. These men gave up everything to follow Jesus. To do something so seemingly rash shows just how much faith they have in this man Jesus.
Think a little of the scene we have before us. Peter wants to know how often he must forgive someone. Based on our translation, he says brother. How many times must he forgive his “brother?” We are not certain if he meant his brother Andrew, whom he probably bullied while they were kids, or simply metaphorical “brother.” Maybe Andrew took the last piece of fish the night before and frequently does, and Peter wants to know if has to continually forgive him. Typical brothers.
One can only imagine Jesus rolling His eyes. Here is Jesus, God in human form, here to save mankind and he has a bunch of men that makes one want to shake their head at. I suppose we have to understand the hiring pool was probably slim, and Indeed and Zip Recruiter was not available then. After all, God decided to come to earth in this particular part of the world for reasons we may never know, so surely He knew what He was in for.
However, I think this is exactly the point. Our Lord wanted to get in deep with the average person. The hard working everyday Jewish person of the day. If He were to come today, I could see Him picking 12 people from different walks of Christianity (maybe even some other faiths). He would want what He wanted then, the average person and our life experiences. He understands human nature – probably better than we do!
Jesus knows the ups and downs we go through. He knows when we feel slighted or wronged. He knows that in most instances our slights are not Darth Vader level, but that we may feel they are sometimes. He understands that many of our hurts are small in reality, but seem large to ourselves. But, He knows no matter how small, the hurts are real.
Regardless whether our hurt is large or small, Christ is calling us to forgive …. and forgive ….. and forgive. He wants us to turn the other cheek and love our enemy. He knows this is difficult for human beings. He knows that being unforgiving eats away at us. Just as the hurt may feel large, even if the act that caused the hurt may be small, so is the damage caused by unforgiveness. The unforgiveness eats at us worse than the original hurt sometimes. Subconsciously we hold onto the unforgiveness as if to cause damage to the one who caused the hurt.
In so far as we hold onto the hurt and thus unforgiveness, the good news is that God’s forgiveness is beyond human comprehension. He not only forgives, He forgives immediately, completely and forever. But, this forgiveness comes with a caveat – that we reflect and work on our forgiveness toward those who have hurt us.
It is interesting that we have this message on this Sunday, merely two days after the nineteenth anniversary of 9/11. This is one of those big, enormous hurts. Not some petty hurt we may do to one another. This is one of those hurts our Lord knows we struggle to forgive.
This past Friday, reflection on the events from nineteen years ago was everywhere you look. The tag-line, “Never Forget” was prominent. And these words, in my mind, are the best choice of words. Our Lord knows that we will struggle to forget and forgive the hurts caused us. However, truth be told, in human psychology, sometimes we can indeed forgive, but we will never forget. We will interact with someone who has hurt us and even carry on as if they have not, but it does remain in our minds sometimes even if it does not affect our relationship any longer.
We indeed are called to forgive, but notice our Lord did not say “forget.” I think He knows that part is nearly impossible. For God, all things are possible, but not for us. When God forgives, He also forgets. He knows humans cannot. When he says to us to turn the other cheek, essentially allowing someone to hurt us again, I do not believe He intended this as a form of setting ourselves up for failure, so much as learning to forgive no matter how many times we are hurt – even by the same person.
No, I think He is very much with us when something like this happens. We indeed should not forget. He would expect us to do all we can to prevent another attack and loss of human lives. But, in so doing, He doesn’t want us to label a group of people in such a way that prejudices and allows discrimination to set in.
Jesus is calling us today to forgive individuals in our lives. Individuals who have lied to us, treated us poorly, forgotten us, ignored us, stole from us, cheated on us and any possible plethora of things. It is hard, to be sure. But, as the Father forgives us, so must we forgive others.
This entire week’s readings from Scripture (we may not celebrate daily Mass in our chapel, however I do still read the daily assigned readings) were focused on forgiveness. It is that important to our Lord. During the week I reflected on someone who has been the epitome of following this teaching of Christ, and that of our own Archbishop Bekken. Over the years, some fellow bishops, have not been the most receptive of him and even been downright nasty to him, yet each and every time, he continued to treat them with love and charity. He forgave better than anyone I know.
So, on this weekend of the anniversary of the horrible terrorist attacks 19 years ago, let us reflect on what our Lord has asked of us. Let us search for a way to forgive those of this heinous act, but also to look into our personal lives and try to be more forgiving and even seek to be forgiven. It is hard, but if you ask the Holy Spirit to help you, I assure you, you will receive great grace.
Let us pray.
For the Church, that the Gospel's call to forgiveness may bridge divisions, heal wounds, and foster peace in our world. We pray to the Lord.
For those in positions of authority, that their service may be marked by integrity and directed toward promoting the common good. We pray to the Lord.
For those suffering from the devastating wildfires here in California and the entire west coast, that God may restore prosperity and speed the assistance to those who have lost loved ones, homes and businesses. We pray to the Lord.
For those who are struggling with the mistaken doubt that they cannot be forgiven: that they may come to experience in their hearts God’s unconditional and eternal promise of mercy and forgiveness. We pray to the Lord.
For the sick, the lonely, the grieving, and for the continued suffering of those related to Covid-19 that they may find consolation through Christ’s healing presence. We pray to the Lord.
For our deceased loved ones: that they may share in the joys of eternal life. We pray to the Lord.
For those on our parish prayer list, that they may find consolation through Christ’s healing presence. We pray to the Lord.
We bow our heads and remember in silence our own personal intentions and the intentions of those who have asked for our prayers (pause). We pray to the Lord.
Father God, how often we call out to You, O Lord, yet we do not incline an ear to the words spoken in the still quiet of our souls. We distance ourselves from Your love and healing touch. Break the stubborn arrogance of our hearts, that we would embrace Your unchanging word and know true peace that only comes from total submission to Your will.
Creator God, protect all whose lives are being upended by wildfires and all who are risking their life to fight them. Break our selfish indifference to the cries of the Earth and the cries of the poor, who are most vulnerable to ecological disaster.
We come to you and ask for your help. We know that we are to forgive others as You have forgiven us, but we find it so hard to do. Our minds and hearts are full of anger for the things that have been said and done. At times it seems as though the ones that inflict pain and wounds are unrepentant...that they escape judgment. We are angry for what they have taken from us and for the pain they have caused us. Lord, we ask that You help us to see with Your eyes for your help in forgiving them so we can be set free of the pain and hurt.
Loving Father, listen to the prayers of your faithful, and instill in us the ways of forgiveness that we may reach out in love to all people. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen
God Love You +++
++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Chapel
San Diego, CA
We are beggars …. We have finally been allowed to reopen, but as you may know, there are attendance limits and some do feel safe to be in a gathering environment yet, and so donations have been greatly reduced. We still need generous donors to help us to reverse the deficit and overdue expenses so we can continue our ministry in a hurting world. Please consider donating if you can!
God Bless You and thank you! +++