Date: Sunday, September 17, 2017
Recently, a parishioner sent me a number of Family Circus comics on prayer, going to church, trying to baptize the cat, etc. One cartoon had Billy (or Jeffy) praying: “Our Father who art in heaven how did you know my name?” Billy messes up the opening of the Our Father but in so doing expresses a core belief: God knows us, cares for us and call us by name. We are called by name at baptism into Christ’s ministry of reconciliation. Like, Simon Peter we are commanded, beyond human comprehension and capacity, to forgive seventy times seven.
Jesus asks us to pray: “Our Father” and petition God/Abba: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” In the Parable of the shady and stingy servant we find lessons for discipleship. The king expects his gesture/grant of mercy to transform his servant who has no way to pay back the loan. The king sets an example. When the king learns of the servant’s reprehensible behavior with a fellow servant in debt to him, he confronts and punishes the wicked and ungrateful servant. What the servant has received he refuses to share.
The parable should make us uneasy when we find ourselves unable to forgive. In our first reading, the author of the Book of Sirach knows our human inclination. “Wrath and anger are hateful things yet we hold them tight.” Wisdom cautions us to remember our old age and to set enmity aside. Can we imagine dying full of anger and bitterness and then opening our eyes to God who is “slow to anger, rich in kindness and compassion?” Paul urges the Church at Rome to live and to die for the Lord. He likely quotes a baptismal hymn. Forgiveness frees us from bondage. It is a death and resurrection experience. In baptism we adopt the manner, attitude, mind and heart of Jesus.
Forgiveness is a difficult task. There are times growing up that parents have to persuade (force) a child to say: “I am sorry” or to reconcile with a sibling. We can take the first step on the path of forgiveness by asking God to let go of anger in our hearts especially before we go to bed. Listen to St. Paul to the Ephesians: “If you are angry let it be without sin. The sun must not go down on your wrath: do not give the devil the chance to work on you.”