Thursday, September 8, 2011

"How often must I forgive?"

Sunday's Gospel (Matthew 18:21-35) for Sept. 11, 2011 addresses the necessity of repentance and repeated forgiveness that are required of those who call themselves Christian. We hear Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness. Peter poses the question, an entirely practical one, by asking how many times we must forgive those who sin against us. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with family, friends and church groups.

This Gospel selection is taken from a section of Matthew's gospel that is concerned with the dynamics of a truly Christian community. It is fairly certain that Matthew's gospel was written for the church at Antioch, where there were deep divisions during the time between the more conservative Jewish Christians and the more liberal Gentile converts.

"Not seven times but seventy-seven times"

What was being taught in the Synagogues during the time of Jesus was that one had a duty to forgive someone three times. And so Peter, by putting forward the possibility of forgiving seven times, probably thinks he is doing very well. But as Fr. Alex McAllister explains, in giving the number seventy-seven, Jesus is essentially saying that there should be no limits to the number of times we forgive those who have offended us. And our Lord drove this lesson home, Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. explain, with a parable about two very different kinds of debts.

So what does it mean, "to forgive"? First of all forgiveness implies that there is something to forgive. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB says forgiveness doesn't mean that the people will be reconciled immediately. Nevertheless, it begins the healing process and helps to remove feelings of revenge. And it is also important to understand what forgiveness does not mean. Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. clarifies that it does not imply that a fault or sin does not matter. Nor does it mean that the offense is forgotten, for that is often impossible. Rather, it means freely choosing to overlook an offense because one is free to do so, having been loved and forgiven oneself.

Forgiveness breaks the chain of causality because he who ‘forgives’ you—out of love—takes upon himself the consequences of what you have done. Forgiveness therefore, explains Fr. John Foley, S. J., always entails a sacrifice. And Jesus takes this even further when he said, “To those who have much, even more will be given; and from those who have little, even what they have will be taken away.That’s the deep mystery at the centre of the universe, explains Fr. Ron Rolheiser - the air we breathe out into the world is the air we will re-inhale. No one who nourishes anger in his or her own heart—while refusing to forgive others—can be forgiven by God, shares college student Colleen Corcoran.

Father Cusick reminds us of how we pray in the Our Father: "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." The forgiveness of the Lord, made possible through his passion, death and resurrection, and the peace which is its fruit, becomes something we experience, in a powerful and continuing way, through our practice of forgiving each other.

9/11 and Forgiveness

Sunday, September 11, is the tenth anniversary of one of the worst days in the history of the United States. It still makes our blood boil to think of all the innocent people who will killed by the terrorists in those attacks. But by a complete co-incidence, the readings today speak about anger and hatred. Fr. John J. Ludvik admits that personally, there are times when he wants vengeance himself. But instead, he keeps preaching love, forgiveness and even a sort of pacifism in the face of war and violence in the world.

We do need to defend ourselves from terrorists. But we also need to realize that anger can often be misguided. It can turn into hatred. Sunday offers us an opportunity to reflect deeply on how we as a Christian community respond to evil in the world. Should we go on hating the terrorists who caused our country so much pain ten years ago? No. Fr. Joseph Pellegrino reminds us that we hate the deed, but not the people. We hate the forces of evil causing so many deaths throughout the world. But we don’t hate the individuals. We can’t hate and be followers of Christ.

If we choose to forgive, how do we do it? There is only one way - the Cross. We have to take our anger, our injuries, our hurts to the cross. The cross brings healing because when we stand before it, we recognize our guilt, a point Fr. Phil Bloom makes clear. The fact that Jesus cancelled our debt should inspire us to forgive others.

So on the tenth anniversary of September 11th 2001, USCCB president Archbishop Timothy Dolan prays that this anniversary be a moment to not only remember, but also to go forward. And Rev. Robert Barron offers these inspiring words: We should remember, we should be angry at the gross injustice done that day, and we should forgive.

Catechism, Technology & a College Education

Technology is a gift. But like most gifts, it can be used for good and it can be used for evil. Our teenagers can choose to apply technology to reinforce human dignity or to deface it. Romeo Marquis reminds us that those choices are best made when they experience human dignity from us adults.

And Bonnie Engstrom talks about a similar challenge. All over the internet people are commenting on the teachings of the Catholic Church. Of course it is important to explain the Sacraments and the saints and the rosary and the “extra” books of the Bible. But what do those things matter if we first forget to tell people the basic Gospel message of how much Jesus loves us? Personally, I have been more comfortable explaining why Catholics believe in the True Presence than sharing with people the depth and width of God’s love for them. Thus she rightly fears we are losing the ability and desire to talk about what really matters.

Marlon De La Torre expressed a similar thread when talking to a pastor one day. The pastor voiced his concern over poor doctrinal formation he suspected the children in hjis CCD classes were receiving.The pastor said, “I knew things were off when all I saw was glue, crayons, construction paper and scissors during an eighth grade religion class.” Religion instructors must be prepared to proclaim the truth of the Catholic Church. He says the need for the Catechism of the Catholic Church is more relevant than ever if we genuinely desire to impart the Catholic faith.

Meanwhile Fr. James V. Schall, S. J. talks about our college education system. He says universities have in some sense become the institutions in which we expect to right all wrongs, preferably by what is called “science.” He laments that universities today are not in the “virtue” business.

How (Not) to Behave at Mass

I don’t know if I am getting old, but have you noticed that people don’t seem to know how to behave at Mass anymore? Dorothy Pilarski shares her experiences ans then offers her "Ten Tips on How to Behave at Mass."

Jennifer Fulwiler, however, offers a few words of caution when criticizing imperfect behavior at church. A few months ago at church, she saw a voluptuous woman in an orange dress that was one of the shortest, most low cut outfits she's ever seen! But when the woman reverently bowed in front of the altar, she noticed that the woman was wearing a chapel veil. And when everyone else stood to leave, the woman remained kneeling for a moment longer, her eyes clenched shut in prayer, her lips moving slightly as she said a few last things to the Lord. As the choir began to sing, Jennifer said a prayer of thanksgiving for the lady's witness, and for the reminder that you don’t have to wait until everything in your life is perfect to engage in outward displays of reverence.

From the Vatican, Pope Benedict had a a few things to say about prayer. First, he reminded us all that prayer must start with the certainty of God's presence. Then he reminded young people that as vacation ends and usual activities return, they should protect their prayer time and not let their routine swallow it. And finally, he also invited all newlyweds to learn to pray together.

Gifts in Unusal Packages

Msgr. Charles Pope's mother loved to put gifts in strange packages. Over the years she often found strange packages to hide gifts - an old shoe box, a box of No. 2 Pencils, a package of underwear. So he learned that sometimes good gifts come in strange packages. And he says God is that way too. Some of God’s gifts come in strange packages.

Kevin Lowry learned the same lesson but under a different set of circumstances. Sometimes bad news comes thick and fast, to the point of being overwhelming. A few years ago, he had some serious challenges going on within his family. As a result, he and his wife found themselves bickering all the time. They knew something was missing. But what? Gratitude.

And here's another story of a gift that's wrapped in an unusual package. At the US Open that's winding down this week in New York, a line umpire barks out critical calls that can decide the championship fates of some of the world's greatest tennis players. What they don't know is that umpire Paul Arinze is a Catholic priest. Arinze climbs into the chair, as a certified bronze badge umpire. There, he officiates serves, not church services, matches instead of Mass. Below, players cross themselves and pray for victory or take the Lord’s name in vain. They do not know that while God may not be interested in their tennis match, a clergyman is watching from close range.

Another eventful week in our Catholic World. A blessed and happy new week to all.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

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