24th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A (17 September 2017)
Lectionary readings: Sirach 27:30-28:7; Ps 103:1-4, 9-12; Rom 14:7-9; Mt 18:21-35
Theme: Reconciliation and Forgiveness, Be Kind and Merciful
Living in Australia now for nearly six years, it is a common occurrence to hear of the Australian State of Reconciliation and Forgiveness, the past history, stories and the path for the future. The significance of reconciliation and forgiveness in maintaining and building relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and the wider Australia community. "It's important not to lose sight of the fact that reconciliation is basically a grassroots process. It's about people living and working together and solving problems in local communities." (P. Dodson)
Last Sunday's Gospel discussed the reconciliation of members guilty of public crimes destructive of the community "If your brother or sister has sinned against you, go and point... "(Mt 18:15). Today's Gospel reading concerns the forgiveness called for within the community at a personal level. Then Peter asked him, "Lord how many times must I forgive the offences of my brother or sister?" (Mt 18:21). The response of the Lord, "not seven times; I say seventy times seven times". In many ancient cultures, Hebrew included, the number seven often signifies completeness and/or perfection. Reconciliation and Forgiveness will be the process to attain the end goal of wholeness, completeness and perfection. I mentioned last week, in the language of Human Rights "caring for one another, is everyone's responsibility".
In our time of the Common Era, we have had two world wars and perhaps we know that some of the main causes of these wars or any global violence and conflict. According to Karen Armstrong in her book "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life", Armstrong noted, it is important to point out that "In fact, the cause of war is usually ambition, hatred, greed and envy". This is the message of the first reading from the book of Sirach, the need for forgiveness and reconciliation. Reconciliation has elements of truth, forgiveness, healing, reparation, justice and love. "Wrath and anger are hateful things ... think of the commandments, hate not your neighbour". Resentment and the vengeful spirit have been part of the human story since the beginning. The Jews knew the directives of Sirach, as well as the challenge of Scripture to be holy as God is holy. "We must realize that listening to this Scripture on Sunday and yet practicing any kind of vendetta is inconsistent and un-Christian" (Sunday Missal pg. 577).
In the parable of the unforgiving manager, Jesus teaches us, there is no limit to granting forgiveness and pardon, the meaning of forgiving "seventy times seven". The man who owned an enormous amount was forgiven, and he failed to show compassion to his friend who pleaded for mercy, how sad. From the "Charter for Compassion", Karen Armstrong noted "The principle of compassion lies in the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish them to be treated ourselves". The final line of the Charter is "It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensible to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community".
Psalm 103, The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger and rich in compassion. Oh God, so great is your love for us, most forgiving and reconciling. Together with psalm 104, God of all grace shines far and wide. "In the galaxy of the Psalter these are twin stars of the first magnitude" (D. Kidner pg. 364)
For Reflection and Discussion: (1) The ability to forgive is a gift present in everyone, what is your opinion. (2) The Golden Rule, "In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets"(Mt 7:12), share with a friend, have a havrutah session.
Bibliography: W.G. Plaut, (ed.) The Torah (NY 1981); K. Armstrong, Charter of Compassion (2009); K. Armstrong, Twelve Steps to a Companionate Life (2010); Reconciliation Australia, Reconciliation Action Plan (2015-2017). D. Kidner, Psalms 73-150 (1975).
This week’s Sunday Commentary was prepared by
Fr. Aliki A. Langi, Gladstone, Australia, Bat Kol Alum 2005
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