Francis of Assisi
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Denver, CO 80224
National Catholic Church (PNCC)
St. Francis of Assisi Polish National Catholic Church (PNCC) @2008
It’s important for us to remember that today’s Gospel is a continuation of Jesus' preaching on the Church.
Last Sunday the Gospel was on how members of the Church should work out their differences. Today Jesus tells us there can be no soundness in the Church if its members do not forgive one another - again and again.
In St. Luke's Gospel, chapter 17, Jesus says, "Take heed to yourselves, if your brother sins - rebuke him -
and if he repents - forgive him - and - if he sins against you seven times in the day - and turns to you seven times and says, 'I repent' - you MUST forgive him." In scripture, we see the number 7, 77 and 70x7 used a lot. This isn’t just coincidence. Seven was a special number to the Hebrews. To them, it was a mystical number, a complete number as the seven days of creation. Therefore, it’s no surprise that in today’s Gospel Peter chooses to use the number seven when asking Jesus how many times he should forgive a brother or sister their sins against him. And Jesus in His reply, "Not seven times, but I tell you, seventy-seven times" makes use of the number seven not necessarily to denote a specific quantity as much as to make his point. And his point is: as many times as it takes, Peter - ENDLESSLY!
Jesus knew how the minds of the people he was speaking to worked. Since they were mostly the ebrews,
He used terms and examples that would have meaning and impact on them. We see this in today’s Gospel not only in the use of the number seven, but also in the vivid contrasts laid out in the parable of the unforgiving servant. This servant owed his master 10,000 Talents, in our Lord's time a Talent was equivalent to more then 15 years wages of a laborer, and the servant was forgiven this extremely large debt when he pleaded to his master for mercy and patience. Now, when this same servant came upon a fellow servant who owed him a hundred Denarii, one Denarii was about one days wages for a laborer,
he grabbed him by the throat and demanded his money. When the second servant could not pay and pleaded for mercy and patience, the first servant refused and had him thrown into prison. The sums here are enormously diverse, the difference between several millions in comparison with a few dollars. Jesus is clearly castigating the loveless attitude of the one who’d been shown so huge a consideration.
We know that torture wasn’t permitted in Israel in our Lord’s time and so by stating that the servant was turned over to be tortured until the entire debt was repaid, Jesus was highlighting the severity of God toward lack of compassion. For Jesus and His Father, lovelessness and vengeance is totally contrary to the persons they are - and the love they’ve shown to mankind. The point of this parable is those for whom GOD has forgiven so much must forgive the relatively minor offenses of their erring fellow Christians.
This is not a new message - in the Old Testament reading today, Sirad writes, "Forgive your neighbor the wrong that is done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray." Jesus taught us in the Lord's Prayer to pray for the forgiveness of our trespasses - as we forgive those who trespass against us. There is no limit to God’s forgiveness of us; therefore, there can be no limit to our forgiveness of one another.
THAT IS TODAY’S MESSAGE FROM JESUS!
Forgive one another as God forgives you. Oh, I know it's easy to say that we should be ready to forgive others as GOD forgives us. In the actual circumstances of day to day life It’s far from an easy thing to do.
At home, at work or business - our resentments and bitterness linger on it seems endlessly. Members of families remain unrepentantly hostile for years; small incidents are allowed to become major points of division between husband and wife; irrational dislikes and envies are allowed to ruin one's work and career.
Today’s first reading clearly illustrates that "Resentment and anger are foul things." This reading brings home the point, "How can one nurse anger against another and then demand compassion of the Lord?"
If there is love in our hearts for GOD, then there will also be love there for others. Why are we so unsuccessful in carrying out this divine ideal of compassion and forgiveness? Could it be we’re focusing on the threat implied in today’s Gospel, that if we do not forgive, GOD will not forgive us? Could this be what we’re doing rather than focusing on sharing in the way of GOD through mercy and love? Consider our Liturgy of the Mass. Again and again it places emphasis on the mercy and love of GOD for all -
- but most especially for sinners. For example the opening prayer states: May we serve you with all our heart and know your forgiveness in our lives. The word "know" here means to "experience" - to experience God’s forgiveness in our lives. Both in being forgiven and in forgiving. Today’s Responsorial Psalm is even more explicit: The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion. This is our GOD, this is His way of caring for us. And the more we experience God’s merciful and compassionate forgiveness in our own lives, the more we’ll want to love GOD in return and the more we’ll do what GOD wants us to do. We need to be reminded often that morality for Christians doesn’t consist of obeying a lot of rules and laws; morality is primarily our personal response to God’s everlasting love for us. God’s forgiveness of our sins.
Lovers do all they can to avoid offending their beloved. It’s quite possible that we’re not yet GOD-lovers.
At least not to the degree of which we’re capable; We may still lack an appreciation of how much GOD loves us, How UNCONDITIONALLY GOD loves us and refuses to hold our offenses against us. It is our awareness of divine love that will enable us to carry out the Lord's command: “Be merciful, even as your heavenly Father is merciful. Be compassionate, even as your heavenly Father is compassionate”. In the experience of forgiving and trying to love one another with all our hearts, we will truly know the forgiveness of GOD in our lives.
In today’s second reading, St. Paul tells us: "None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself…
whether we live or die, we are the Lord's" Perhaps it’s time for us to let the Lord take over our thinking, our deciding, and our acting. How many times should I forgive? As many as seven times?
“NOT SEVEN TIMES, BUT, I TELL YOU SEVENTY TIMES SEVEN TIMES.”
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September 17th - 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time - A 2017