September 13 – Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
If there were ever words from sacred scripture that get right to the point and strike the heart, today’s first reading and Gospel are those words! If there was ever a clearer and direct message in the scripture readings, today is the day! It there was ever more difficult direction to live, today’s readings give it. What am I talking about? FORGIVENESS! For the 39 years that I have sat in the confessional, forgiving someone who angered or hurt you is probably the sin I hear most frequently. Why do we find it so darn hard to forgive someone – especially when we hear the warnings in today’s scriptures? These words from our first reading provide me with a lot of motivation to forgive: “Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight. The vengeful will suffer the Lord’s vengeance, for He remembers their sins in detail. Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.” For many years, I withheld forgiveness from the hurt I experienced in a family relationship. Even though I would say I do not care if I ever see that person again, that was simply a defense. Deep down in my heart I wanted to restore that relationship, but wanted the other person to make the first move. After many years, I realized that I was giving power to that person and hurtful memory to control my happiness now. How stupid was I! Unfortunately, because of my stubbornness, the reconciliation did not happen before that relative died. Then I realized that I do not want to die with any unreconciled relationships in my life. They say you can’t take it with you, and that is true of material things, but I think you do take with you the unreconciled sins, hurts, hardness of heart and anger that you’ve held onto in life. That is why we Catholics believe in purgatory. Purgatory is purification from all that kept us in this life from loving and forgiving as God is. And, in the afterlife, you won’t get to heaven until you are willing to be seated at the heavenly banquet next to the person you hated most in this life! So, I would rather shorten my purgatory by having less unreconciled relationships when I die.
Today’s Gospel parable should also provide the motivation to reconcile quickly. The one servant who was treated with mercy and had his debt forgiven, which happens when we go to confession, went out and treated another servant without the mercy he received. Because of this, he was severely punished. Jesus concludes: “So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.” Remember, when you pray the “Our Father” you tell God to forgive your sins just like you forgive those who sin against you! Do you really mean that?
Have a blessed week!