Sunday, September 13, 2020

Forgive One Another

 

Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive?  As many as seven times?”  Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.  That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants.  When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.   Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt.  At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’  Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.   When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount.   He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’  Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’  But he refused.  Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison until he paid back the debt.   Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair.  His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!  I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.  Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.  So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:21-35.

Each time I hear this Gospel it causes me to pause and reflect.  We are called to forgive others and allow God’s abundant love to transform us.  If we are able to let go of our past wounds we are able to become freer to love and live in the image and likeness of God.  As Christians we are all called to love Jesus and to love like Him. It's a beautiful and challenging invitation put before each and every one of us. We are given this opportunity not because we have done good deeds but solely because of God's great love and mercy. Likewise, when we have the opportunity to turn the other cheek, to forgive, to tell the truth, to honor each other, to choose life, we are accepting Jesus' invitation.

Our lives and times are full of opportunities to forgive and to help others to do the same.  If each one of us took the opportunity to relish God’s love and share it with others our world would be a better place.  If we reach out to one another and continue to pay if forward people would experience the love and mercy of our God.  Let us pray for an openness to the Holy Spirit in our lives, for “only the Spirit by whom we live can make ‘ours’ the same mind that was in Christ Jesus.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Love One Another

 

Jesus said to his disciples:  “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.  If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’  If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.  If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.  Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.  Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.  For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18: 15 - 20

In this gospel reading, Jesus teaches his followers how to go about reconciling issues within the community. He begins with, “if another member of the community sins against you…” and then goes on to give some specific steps to bring about reconciliation.

Reconciliation is about regaining members of the community.  The process of reconciliation is about unity rather than guilt, blame, shame or getting even.  This Gospel reminds us of the importance of our relationships with one another.  As I read this Gospel I was reminded of my childhood.  Growing up as the youngest of four I remember the fights and arguments we had.  Our parents always encouraged us to settle things among ourselves.  It wasn’t always easy but we did it.  We always settled and were once again unified.

Our Gospel calls us to approach those who wronged us with love and acceptance.  We are called to make reparation for the times when we have caused harm.  This is the foundation of our faith and invites us deeper into the presence of God.  Let us always seek to gather in the presence of God.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Following God's Invitation

 

From today’s "Romans" reading: "Do not conform yourselves to this age; but be transformed by the renewal of your mind that you may discern what the will of God is; what is good and pleasing and perfect."

Every one of us is called to give to others.  We are called to be men and women of action.  Sometimes we are asked to go to the edge – to help others in ways we may not have thought of.  As followers of Jesus we are reminded in today’s readings that we may be called to carry the cross on occasion.  We may be called to help others in ways we never thought or imagined.

It is clear we can’t take the cross out of our religion. We can’t take it out of our daily consciousness either. We may not suffer on the same kind of cross Jesus did, or be martyred the way so many who have followed Him have been. But still, Jesus tells us we must each take up our cross and follow Him – and the cross costs. The cross is not simply something we wear as an accessory around our necks. The cross will cost us if we follow what St. Paul tells us today.

So, we ask ourselves:  Do I wear a cross around my neck or have one on the wall of a room at home?  Why? What does that visible symbol of Christ’s suffering mean to me?  How does it affect my daily life – what I do and the decisions I make?  Am I willing to give of myself even when it may be costly?

Let us be transformed each day by deciding to follow where Jesus leads without turning back.  May we have the courage and strength to seek to do the will of our loving God in all that we do.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Who Do You Say That I Am?

 

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matt. 16:13-20).

Today’s Gospel is one of my favorite ones as it is the one I used for my religious profession some thirty-three years ago.  I remember that special day as if it were yesterday.  It is forever emblazoned in my heart and mind.  Many of the special people who were there are no longer with us and are in Heaven. 

In this Gospel Jesus asks his followers, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?  Their response is what would seem obvious as the opinions varied some 2000 years ago.  Then Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”  Peter’s response describes the full truth of who Jesus is.  “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Peter’s courageous confession acknowledges Jesus as Christ, and in hearing it Christ declares his Church with Peter as its foundation. Peter’s life-giving profession begins a web of connection for all of us.  Jesus’ question was one that I reflected on often in my religious formation.  Being a follower of Jesus I have been stretched and have grown in my love for Jesus over these years.  May we always seek to see Jesus and understand His great love for us.  May we always be able to answer like Peter the questions:  Who do you say that I am? May we do this with faith and hope in the living Christ as He continues to guide and stretch us.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

God Never Disappoints

 

 

At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.   And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!   My daughter is tormented by a demon.”   But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her.  Jesus’ disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”  He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.”  He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”   She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”   Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith!   Let it be done for you as you wish.”  And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.  Matthew 15:21-28

In today’s Gospel Jesus performs a miracle, He heals a woman’s daughter. At a time when we are so aware of our own limitations we have a Gospel full of hope.  Jesus did not have to heal the woman’s daughter, he chose to.  The woman came to Him and was not going to leave without His assistance.  She was persistent in her pleading with Him.  The woman’s faith is what moved Jesus to responding to her need.  She simply said the words, “Lord, help me.”  These seemingly simple words changed everything.  She knew if she asked Jesus that He would answer her plea.

We have much to learn from this woman.  If we seek God in everything we do we can be truly free.  When we submit to God’s will we are truly free.  We have to make the choice each day and when we do we will feel the freedom of being a child of God.  God wants to work through us.  When we see someone struggling we can be messengers of hope.  We can pray for those in need, reach out to them in encouragement, and assure them that God is always with them.  Faith is the grace that has been given to us which allows us to utter the simple phrase “Lord, help me.”  God will help us because God never disappoints.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Taking Time

When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.  The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns.  When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.  When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”  Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.”  But they said to him, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.”  Then he said, “Bring them here to me, ”and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass.  Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.  They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over— twelve wicker baskets full.  Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children.  Matthew 14: 13 – 21

Jesus had just received word that his cousin John had died.  He tried to go off by Himself and the crowd followed Him.  Jesus was moved by pity and He reached out to help them.  Rather than go away He healed their sick and felt genuine pity on them.  As they day drew on His disciples told Him to dismiss the crowd.  Jesus realizing that they much have been hungry asked the disciples what they had with them.  There was no way that the food would be enough but Jesus made sure that there was.  Not only were they all fed there were even leftovers.  Jesus in the midst of His own grief took care of the crowd even though He wanted to be alone.

Jesus’ strength and courage came from His daily prayer life and His relationship with God. These past six months have been hard for all of us.  The pandemic, civil unrest and political divisions have caused many of us to want to run away and hide.  Like Jesus we need to take time and pray.  We need to ask God to strengthen us and give us the courage to face the many difficult situations that come to us.


Sunday, July 12, 2020

The Sower and the Seed



On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.  Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore.  And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying:
“A sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up.  Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.  It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots.  Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.  But some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.  Whoever has ears ought to hear.”  Matthew 13: 1 – 9

In today’s Gospel we hear the familiar story of Jesus getting into a boat leaving the shore to teach those who had gathered.  This is one of my favorite Gospels as we hear Jesus instructing those who had come to follow.  Jesus was sharing the parable of the Sower and the Seed.  Each of His words emphasized the intention of each one of us receiving the Word of God.  Jesus lets us know that it is not enough to hear the Word we need to live it out and let it take root in our lives.  Our lives can become difficult and complex at times but we must allow the word of God to fill it and live out of that reality.  Jesus challenges us to look at ourselves and examine those parts in our hearts where there may be rocky soil.  In what areas do we need to allow Jesus to touch our hearts?  Let us take time to reflect on this Gospel today and allow ourselves to be open to Jesus’ healing touch.