Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Reflections on the Readings
Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 18, 2011 - Year A
By Dennis S. Hankins
The Generous Love of God!
"Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?" (Matthew 20:15)
Through the prophet Isaiah God speaks to us today. He says, "My thoughts are not your thoughts. Neither are your ways my ways." And yet God is as near to us as our next breath and we should call upon him while he is near. We should seek him while he may be found; not that he is lost, but we are without him.
And God's promise is that he is merciful and will abundantly pardon all who turn to him. That is the testimony of everyone who turns to him. It is the testimony of the penitent thief on the cross, to whom Christ promised Paradise at the last hour of this man's life. The apostle Paul describes the resurrection appearances of Jesus to more than five hundred brethren at one time. He states that he appeared to James, then to all of the apostles. But "Last of all, Paul says, as to one untimely born, he appeared to me also."
The message of the today's Gospel is a rich reminder of the generosity of God. He invites all into his friendship. To all he offers the same gift of eternal life. As we come nearer to the cross of Christ, we discover a remarkable thing. Everyone of us stand on level ground as we gaze upon God's offer of forgiveness and salvation. No one gets more love than another; no favorites are standing here. Together, whether we arrived here early in the morning or make our profession of faith at the last hour of our life, receive the same invitation to come into his embrace; to enter into his rest.
There is a woman who was caught in the act of adultery. The scribes and Pharisees escorted her to the feet of Jesus demanding that justice be done; that the law of Moses be followed. Jesus wrote something on the ground and then stood up and invited anyone without sin to hurl the first stone against the condemned woman. Again Jesus wrote something in the dust; and one one by the accusers left. Jesus looked up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one Lord." And Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more."
What did Jesus write on the ground? Some ancient manuscripts of this passage state that Jesus listed the sins of each of the accusers. I wonder if he may have included after each sin, "Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more."
For various reasons it is sometimes hard for folks to believe how generously merciful and forgiving the Father is. Some believe that their sin is too sinful. They don't believe that God could forgive them. Others think it's just simply too late. "There is nothing left to save," they say. But God reaches out to all; the rich and poor; the down and out; the wasted and wearied. To God, who is not willing that any should perish, there is no one too lost or too old or too sinful. Neither is it ever too late.
If Jesus is saying anything to us in today's Gospel it is surely that God is generous. Whether your sins were forgiven early in your life or today your are in the sunset years of life, God's grace is amazing, it is full, and it is free. There is no friendship as real and life changing as is the friendship of Jesus. The little children ran to him and lepers cried out to him. The demon possessed were liberated by him and fisherman left their nets and followed him.
It is extremely difficult for some to think that God is so willing and able and ready to forgive. Some believe that God is too generous. Do not misunderstand. I'm not preaching that Grace is cheap. I am saying that God's grace is sufficient and what he gave to a motley crew of disciples two thousand years ago is what he will give to you and to me today. So whether we are still in the first hour of the Church or it is the eleventh hour of her witness, God's love is the same unconditional gift of eternal life.
Come, let us adore him. Here at this Altar let us bow down and cry worthy is the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. And then with hearts overflowing with thanksgiving let us bring to our lips this life giving bread and this saving cup. And then let us return to our families and to our communities and work places to imitate the generous love we celebrate today.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Reflections on the Readings
Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 11, 2011 - Year A
By Dennis S. Hankins
The Spiritual Work of Mercy
"And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt." - Jesus (Matthew 18:27)
St. John Chrysostom on today's gospel stated:
"What then are God's good deeds? He created us from nothing; he made the whole visible world for us, the heaven, the sea, the earth, animals, plants and seeds. I must be brief because of the infinite number of his works. Into us alone of all that are on earth he breathed a living soul. He planted a garden for us. He gave us a helpmate and set us over all the brute species, and he crowned us with glory and honor. And yet after all this, when humanity turned out ungrateful toward its benefactor, he thought us worthy of an even greater gift----forgiveness."
Have you ever heard someone say, "I'll never forgive him?" Or, "I'll never forgive her?" Never is a long time. In the Catechism we read: There is no offense, however serious, that the Church cannot forgive. "There is no one, however wicked and guilty, who may not confidently hope for forgiveness, provided his repentance is honest." Christ who died for all men desires that in his Church the gates of forgiveness should always be open to anyone who turns away from sin. (#982)
I often gaze upon the crucifix affixed to the wall behind the Altar. And I can't help think about what put Jesus there. I can't help think that my hand was wrapped around that hammer that drove the nails into his hands and his feet. I can't help think that it was my anger, my vengeful attitude, my darkened mind and my weakened will that made this supreme act of Mercy necessary. A crucifix in the home just might help everyone in the house to be a little bit more merciful.
Among the several things that ticked off the scribes one stands out. The paralytic who was carried on a pallet by four men was let down through a hole in the roof of a house where Jesus was teaching. And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralyzed man, "My son, your sins are forgiven." And the scribes sitting there said, "You can't do that! This is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"
One of the objections to the Sacrament of Reconciliation is that only God can forgive sins. But the 'forgiveness of sins' is a ministry of the Church. Jesus gave his apostles and their successors the 'power to forgive sins;' the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Cor. 5:18) They taught as the Church does today that we can be reconciled to God; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Cor. 5:19) In this Sacrament we are reconciled to God and his Church. It is this Mercy we take back into our homes and jobs and relationships and dispense it as freely as we have received it.
This is what the unforgiving servant failed to do in today's gospel. He owed his master what equated to more than fifteen years' of pay. Out of pity for him who begged for mercy, the master released him from his huge debt. Somehow this same man could not give what he had received. We are to freely give what we have received. When we leave the confessional we must always remember that to whom much is given, much is required.
The gracious words of absolution are: God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Are there any more gracious and merciful words in all the world? I think not. A year or so ago, my youngest daughter came to me and told me she was sorry about something. I said something like, "OK," in a somewhat sympathetic tone; I think. And immediately she said, "Well, don't you forgive me?" Out of the mouth of little children. I learned something that moment about the spiritual work of mercy.
We come today to this Table of Mercy. And we remember that when the goodness and loving kindness of God appeared he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour. (Titus 3:5-6) Amen.