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Contents: Volume 2 - The 24th SUNDAY (A) - September 13, 2020






1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP
2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller
3. -- Brian Gleeson CP
4. --
5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

Sun. 24 A

This Sunday's Scriptures reveal how human emotions such as anger, rage, and vengeance are contrary to God's extraordinary ways of forgiveness. Words from the first reading from the Book of Sirach such as injustice, wrath, enmity, and hate are all very strong words that fuel negative emotions. Only the gentler words like healing, mercy, and pardon are life -giving.

We all know that. We all know that getting from a knee-jerk reaction, perhaps a righteous one, to a vague resemblance of forgiveness is often a long journey. Yet we see remarkable instances of astounding forgiveness in some new stories and perhaps know of personal ones as well. Most of us can not make that leap, however, at least right away.

My story is an inch by inch one. "Once upon a time, in a life long ago", one of the people I love was a victim of a horrendous attack by "friends". As the victim rested at home the morning after a very scary overnight Emergency Room visit, I drove to daily Mass. Suddenly I saw the two "alleged" criminals nearby, just horsing around rather close to the road. It must have been the Hands of God because I wasn't the one who abruptly pulled the car to the side and turned off the ignition. I clearly remember thinking of driving straight through them! I looked up to see them run down the street. I don't know if they saw me. I never saw or spoke to them again. They were apprehended by the police later that day and ultimately each one pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the attack...... mostly still being served on strict probation, at least I think. Almost 15 years later, I can still feel the heat of that raw emotion from the other side of the continent as I write this reflection. The best I can do now is leave them in God's Hands as I tried to do then.

My 11 year old granddaughter shared a fortune cookie saying with me just two days ago, saying it was something I might write. It said "No person is important enough to make you angry." Fortunately, she doesn't know anything about this particular incident in our complicated family history, but she knows me very well. I'm not sure what I would do if I saw the attackers again, but honestly, saying I forgave them seven times seventy (even figuratively) would still be a stretch. Somehow the power of God's grace has softened that raw emotion enough in me for my insightful granddaughter to know that I don't act on my anger (other than to state it) or stay angry. That's an inch in the right direction.

I'm not sure I actually believe that saying she found exactly as it is written (poor English translation?). Jesus got angry. The master in today's Gospel story got angry. I do believe that nurturing anger or hatred is personally destructive, however. Forgiveness is possible through grace, even if the journey is inch by inch.

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP
Southern Dominican Laity

Twenty Fourth Sunday of Ordered Time September 13, 2020

Sirach 27:30 – 28:7; Responsorial Psalm 103: Romans 14:7-9; Gospel Acclamation John 13:34; Matthew 18:21-35

We have lost a bit in the new translation Matthew’s gospel in chapter 18. The bad steward is said to owe his master a huge debt. That is true – what Jesus mentioned is indeed a huge debt. But the imagination is left to figure out just how huge that debt was. The Jerusalem Bible identifies the debt as 10,000 talents. A talent is a measure of weight that is between 75 and 100 pounds. That would equate to 750,000 pounds of gold. Gold in the marketplace is bought and sold in ounces. The total debt in ounces would have been upward of twelve million ounces. With gold valued in the market at $1925.87 an ounce, the total debt in current dollars is in the neighborhood of twenty-two trillion, one hundred ten billion, four hundred forty million dollars. That comes close to matching our nation’s debt. And the calculations for this astronomical number are all conservative. A talent could weight up to 100 pounds – we used 75 pounds in this calculation. The market value of gold today is closer to $2000 an ounce than it is to $1925.87 an ounce.

What individual could ever repay such a debt? What on earth could this man have been buying? What terrible habits had he cultivated, what orgies would he have sponsored, what wars would he have incited? Jesus is making a point. No matter how serious, no matter or heinous has been our sins, God forgives them all. There is no mountain high enough that he would not climb to come to us. There is no river wide enough that would block his love for us. Sorry about the use of a sixties love song to make this point. That is the model of God’s forgiveness. That is also the model of how much indebtedness we should forgive those who have trespassed against us and our values.

In this chapter 18 of Matthew we are instructed on the principles and culture of the Kingdom of Heaven. In this kingdom that Jesus is working to establish, there is no room for wrath and anger. The model of attitude toward others must be modeled on God’s modeling toward how we hope and pray he will treat us. Sirach tells us that if our living is based on vengeance, wrath, anger, and getting even with others, then what can we expect from the God of all? How can we expect healing from God if we fail to extend a healing hand and heart to those who hurt us?

What is the lesson here for us? I think we take this lesson to mean more about God’s relationship with us individually than it has to do with our relationships with others and our use and abuse of God’s creation. We like to think that God will forgive us all our sinfulness, that the bad choices we have made in our lifetime will be swept under the carpet to be forgotten when we meet the Creator face to face. Or we think about God’s loving kindness in the context of church; well, not church, but our church, our relationships with those others who worship like we do.

The application of the Kingdom of Heaven’s principles and values is not an electrical current we can turn off like a light switch when we leave a room. The presence of God within our hearts through the gift of faith must permeate all that we do, all that we think. That presence is a value greater than the 10,000 talents frittered away by the bad steward.

In the parable this Sunday, Jesus compares the debt of the unjust steward with a debt owed him by another servant. That debt owed him is like pocket change – nickels and dimes with some pennies thrown in – and perhaps a single quarter. What would make this unjust steward so violently demanding after he has been forgiven the national debt? What is the nature and state of his heart that a few dollars are more important than this man’s life and the wellbeing of his family?

As we think about our values and our application of them, is money more important than other people? Do we support necessary tax laws that provide greater wealth to the already wealthy over lessening the burdens of those forced into minimum wage jobs? Do we support offshoring manufacturing work that considers the poor of those nations unworthy of necessary health and safety regulations for pay that is calculated to keep those peoples in economic subservience? Do we claim rights and privileges as our own while we overlook and ignore the denial of rights to others who are different than we are? Do we hold onto our religion and its practices in order to deny others the right of worshipping as their traditions and scriptures have taught them?

What about those who do us harm – those who steal, create mayhem, injury us or our loved ones? Do we throw them into prisons for profit, so they lose their humanity? Do we see civil justice only as a means of protecting ourselves from bad people? Do we think of that justice only as retribution? Where is our sense of the value and wonder of each human life that we so often claim when we speak of abortion? Is not the life of an unborn in the same category as humans living outside the womb? Is it not more the point that all punishment should be restorative and not vengeance?

When we allow for political power derived by dividing us into the haves and have-nots are, we not denying dignity and worth to other humans for the purpose of money and power? No matter the dollar value of such division, it is not the Way of the Kingdom of Heaven.

When religious faith focuses on power and wealth and influence, we inevitably deny dignity and worth to others. Such a religious faith is lacking in truth. The thousands of years of human experience that came to know God as the author of creation and its value lead us to understand how God is. The thousands of years of strife, division, rapacious theft of personal dignity and worth in favor of money, of power, and of fame should also tell us something. God is about compassion and mercy. Take a long look at the Cross of Jesus that is precursor to the empty tomb of Easter. What do we see there? What is the meaning of such agony followed by such glory and wonder?

If what we see is about me, we have missed the point of God’s interventions in human history. God’s work is about us as family. God’s work among us is for healing, for respect for each other. God’s insistence with the Hebrew nation that he brought to freedom is that he takes his deal with us very seriously. He gives us advantage heaped upon advantage. We tend to take his largesse and make it personal, self-serving.

How easily we forget that we are Church. In ancient times, the term used for Church means “those who are called together.” We forget that “those” includes all traditions of faith. We would like to believe it means only those of our social-economic status, not the extremely poor, not the extraordinarily rich, not those imprisoned for crimes against humanity, not those in hospitals with a death-dealing virus. We are in this life together. What lifts up one, lifts up all. What harms one, harms all.

How can we overcome our adulation of power, wealth, and fame? How can we come to join in truth the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus came to establish?

Even in his most terrible, unjustified death, Jesus pleaded with the Father, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” We have been told, we have been taught, the moments and decisions of our living, the cultures that lift us up or beat us down – all this leads us to embrace the Kingdom of Heaven and its traditions, its values, its meaning and purpose, and its rewards, all these moments lead us to understand that what is most important is God and his creation --- all of his creation.

Let us remember this in these next several months as we ponder what we should do as a nation, as a people called by God to his holy mountain. Let us pray with intensity and conviction for the Spirit to inspire us, to enlighten us, and to recreate us once again in the Trinity’s image and likeness.

Carol and Dennis Keller


September 11 will be the 19th anniversary of the wickedness which led to the destruction of the twin towers in New York and the destruction of thousands of lives and families. It all seems simply unforgivable. So much so that it may be almost impossible to accept what Jesus says in his message today, about the need to forgive others completely, and to do so any number of times.

It doesn’t help that we find ourselves living in a society which is often hell-bent on revenge, for the hurt and harm which human beings inflict upon one another. But pay-back was not the attitude of Jesus, and it has not been the attitude of his genuine followers, such as Martin Luther King. He courageously led the movement for human and civil rights for his people, but for all his efforts, he ended up being murdered in cold blood. Yet he used to say: ‘Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude.’ In fact, it’s a healthy attitude as well. For nursing anger and resentment are dangerous for our health, and in some instances even fatal.

Nicholas is a dedicated young man who runs a faith renewal program for men in prison. Those who take part are regularly ‘bagged’ by the other prisoners. On one occasion a man was bashed on his way back to his cell, simply for being part of what his assailant called ‘that Christian thing’. Yet he refused to reveal to the warden the name of his assailant, even when the warden threatened to get his sentence extended. Why did he refuse to dob in his enemy? His answer in his own words was: ‘I wanted to forgive another human being just like God has forgiven me.’ When the one who had bashed him heard about this, he was so deeply affected by his victim’s answer, that a few months later he himself signed up for faith renewal and experienced the power for himself of ‘that Christian thing’.

What happened to both prisoners is an extension of the story which Jesus told, about being ready to forgive as readily and as generously as God forgives us, which is to say, over and over and over again.

In the days of Peter and Jesus, the Jewish rabbis taught that the duty to forgive had been fulfilled if one forgave an offender three times. Peter must have thought he was being extra generous if he forgave seven times. But Jesus teaches that for members of his community there’s to be no limit to their forgiveness. This teaching of Jesus makes him stand out from all other teachers. So does the way he followed this up, by forgiving his unrepentant executioners as he hung dying upon the cross.

Quite a bit is being written today on the question of reconciliation. Until recently we have thought the process begins with the offender repenting of the offence and then asking for forgiveness. Those who have done serious research in the matter disagree. They have learnt that the process must begin with the one offended offering forgiveness, and that this willingness to forgive transforms the one offering forgiveness. From being a victim, he/she becomes a survivor. They have also learned that such generosity may touch the heart of the offender so much that the offender ceases to be an enemy and becomes a friend.

We all know how hard it can be to forgive someone who has offended us, because our dignity and self-esteem have been wounded and our feelings have been hurt, perhaps very deeply. When we are hurt, our unredeemed instinct is to lash out and inflict pain in return. We want to even the score. Many people would not blame us for feeling like this. In fact, some would even encourage us to retaliate and take revenge. However, revenge and pay-back are the tough ways of the world, but not the peace-making ways of Jesus. Once again, his disciples follow a less-travelled road.

Today Jesus gives us another example of how Christians must give to others what God has given to them. Nothing anyone owes us can compare with what we owe to God. If God has been so generous in forgiving us, we surely can and must be, generous in forgiving others.

Of course, the process of becoming a forgiving person takes time. For some of us it may take a lifetime. Only little by little are our anger and fury, our bitterness and resentment reduced, and our desire to strike back and even perhaps to throttle the offender diminished. In fact, it is only through time and through the grace of God, i.e. through the influence of the Holy Spirit, that we can let go of our hurts.

Sad to say, one man who cannot let go of his anger is Phil Cleary, former champion footballer, and more recently a TV sports commentator, with his own distinct and engaging style. We learn in a local magazine article called ‘Maintaining the Rage’, that he cannot let go of his anger towards the man who murdered his sister and towards the justice system. His feelings are very understandable, because of the huge pain of his loss and grief for the sister he loved so dearly, and our hearts go out to him. His feelings are understandable even though the murderer has since died. But on the other hand, it’s clear that unless and until Phil can come to accept his loss and let go of his anger, he will never have any sense of closure, and never enjoy the peace of mind he so desperately craves.

His story tells me that if we become obsessed with our rage, anger, resentment, frustration, and desire for revenge, our obsession will tend to destroy us. On the other hand, it is only when we begin to forgive, that we will start to be healed. So, for the grace for ourselves to forgive others who have hurt and offended us, and for the grace for Phil Cleary and others like him, to start to recover from the terrible things that have happened to them, let us pray sincerely and often to the Lord, who is Forgiveness Itself!

"Brian Gleeson CP" <>


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