RSS

Daily Archives: September 15, 2017

TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

1-9Today’s Gospel reading directly follows last week’s Gospel in which Jesus taught the disciples how to handle disputes and conflict within the Christian community. The story has two scenes: first, inside the throne room of a powerful king; second, just outside in a palace corridor. The story tells of two worlds: the world as we know it, and the world as God wants it. The throne room changes in a moment from the world as we know it to the world as God wants it. That palace corridor, however, starts out as the world we know but fails to become the world as God wants it.

The throne room, starts out as the world we know. It’s a world of calculation and control. The king is reviewing accounts, and a servant, owes him big time. The servant gets called but that’s only a formality. No way can this servant pay back what he owes. Financially, he’s dead.

Everybody there in the throne room thinks his appearance is a mere formality. Everybody, that is, except him. Upon hearing the sentence imposed on him he drops to his knees crying out for mercy. He makes promises he knows he can never keep. This is a world of calculation and control.

Well, in the story Jesus tells, something unexpected happens. Against the advice of his accountants he forgives the servant his astronomical debt.

There we are, my friends. If the cross of Christ and the Christian life mean anything, this is what they mean: By forgiving us the sins we cannot make up on our own, God dies to the world of power and control.

This is a part of Christianity that is scandalous, shocking, and hopeful. It’s good news, for anyone who even suspects that God is the Great Bully in the Sky. God is dead to that sort of world, the world of calculation and control and so are we.

What happens next to the servant in the story? His learning curve is, well, pathetic. He runs into somebody who owes him something. There in the palace corridor, he grabs the fellow by the collar and tries—unsuccessfully—to shake the money out of him. Welcome back to the world of calculation and control.

This second debtor pleads for mercy. You’d think it would be a no-brainer for the forgiven debtor to remember that as of a few moments ago, he was dead to the world of calculation and control and that he should act accordingly in dealing with his debtor out there in the corridor. You’d think that mercy received would result in mercy given.

But that doesn’t happen. He acts out the world of calculation and control. He refuses to show mercy, he fails to help his debtor die to a world of oppression. Instead, he’s ready to send him into the nearest prison. The palace corridor remains in the world of calculation and control.

Here we get to the heart of why forgiveness is hard. We conveniently forget—or maybe we’ve never acknowledged—that we are forgiven sinners, debtors who have been let off the hook. We don’t admit that the king has dropped dead to the world of power and control so that we might have another chance, and another, and another. We don’t realize that if faith means anything, it means we’re free from this world of control and calculation, and all it claims, thanks to a king who dies for us.

Christianity states that forgiveness is necessary. It is not an option, but an imperative. Christianity also makes it clear that forgiveness is hard. It is costly. The one who forgives dies to the world as we know it to usher in the world as God wants it.

His death brings with it a challenge to the one forgiven. By accepting and passing on forgiveness, such a person bears witness to the scandalous truth that, yes, everybody is a sinner, and everybody is forgiven by a mercy that is God-sized.

It’s easy to forget to forgive. That is why we gather Sunday by Sunday to celebrate the Eucharist. Here we present time after time, through prayerful word and action, how the king died on a cross, our debt has been paid in full. Not because we deserved it, but because God decided the possibility of a relationship is more important than allowing sin to prevent it. How we respond is up to us. God’s desire is that we use our forgiveness as a beginning point for a new and healthy relationship with God and with one another.

My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Saviour has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing grace

 

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 15, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Reflections for Our Lady of Sorrows

2It would not be an exaggeration to say that Mary is the most blessed, privileged, person to come from the hand of God. She was, after all, chosen to be mother to his only-begotten Son. Imagine her delight in raising the Savior of the world, challenging though the job must have been! Throughout her life, Mary pondered and treasured the work of God and rejoiced to see his plan unfold through her.

Yet Mary also knew the deepest of human sorrows. Just days after her son was born, the prophet Simeon told her, “A sword will pierce your own soul” (Luke 2:35). These words certainly could have discouraged Mary from embracing the role that God had laid out for her—or at least drained her of all enthusiasm for her calling. But they didn’t. Instead, Mary embraced them, pondered them, and continued to live by faith in God.

Mary certainly suffered, but she was also a woman of joy and hope. Her intimacy with God was a source of consolation and trust that could withstand any tragedy. Mary is called Our Lady of Sorrows not because of the bad things that happened to her but because of the way she joined her heart to the heart of God. As she saw her son endure the hatred of some of Israel’s religious leaders, as she saw his disciples abandon him in his moment of need, as she saw him arrested, tried, and put to death—in all these things, Mary grasped how deeply the Father’s heart was aching with love for a wayward people. Hers were the sorrows of an intercessor who knew the suffering in the world and longed to see all people turn to Jesus for healing and salvation.

As she stood at the foot of the cross, Mary’s heart was indeed pierced—not only by the sight of Jesus’ suffering but also by all the suffering in the world. Even now, as she intercedes with her Son in heaven, she is the mother of all those who suffer in any way. Even today, she continues to weep over all the crushing needs in this world. Like Mary, let us lift our hearts in intercession for all those who are lost or hurting.

Pray for us, O Most Sorrowful Virgin, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ Lord Jesus, we now implore, both for the present and for the hour of our death, the intercession of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Your Mother, whose Holy Soul was pierced during Your Passion by a sword of grief. Grant us this favor, O Savior of the world, Who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.​

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 15, 2017 in Uncategorized