Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Fr. Paul's homily: 9-11

Fr. Paul Beach from the Archdiocese of Louisville, was my spiritual director before I came here. I think I may post his homilies regularly; I always get alot out of them. Here is his homily for Sun Sept 11:
Homily for Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 11, 2005

As people who live in our 21st century society, we are very accustomed to a certain way of life. There are certain principles that we live by. One of the most foundational of these principles is that we should get what we pay for.

Earlier this week, I stopped at a McDonald’s on my way to a meeting in Louisville to get a bite to eat for breakfast. Two apple pies and a large coffee: the staple of my diet… Since the coffee is always served scalding hot, I ate my two apple pies first, giving the coffee time to cool down a bit. Three or four miles down the road I popped off the top and much to my chagrin, the cup was barely more than half full. Admittedly, I was immediately a little upset. The first thought in my mind was: "hey, I paid for a large cup of coffee, not a small one." I even felt a bit cheated. Now this was just an incredibly small matter: it’s just a cup of coffee.

I’m happy to say that I didn’t turn around and go back to complain. But how easily this small event caused such a reaction in me. It’s evidence of this attitude we all have to some degree. I want to get what’s coming to me. If I pay my fifty dollars for a gallon of gas, I want every last drop of that gallon… and not a drip less.

Our gospel this weekend, however, portrays a different picture. Our Lord reminds us that sometimes we shouldn’t really want what’s coming to us.

It’s safe to say: no one here is without sin. Not one person in this church doesn’t have something that they regret having said or done. It’s simply a fact: there have only been two people in the history of the world who were sinless, and I’m not one of them. Our actions, we are reminded, have consequences. We live in a world where what we say and do have an effect, good or bad, on ourselves and the people around us.

The story of our gospel this weekend reminds us of two essential elements of our Christian faith. First of all is that God is willing, even anxious, to forgive us our sins. Jesus is continually calling people to recognize their need for forgiveness, and to turn to His heavenly Father. Jesus’ teachings are all characterized by this, He even forgave people their sins Himself. This was a scandal to His religious contemporaries, and is ultimately the reason He was crucified.

The second essential element of faith is that we must be willing to forgive. Repeatedly Jesus speaks of this throughout His life and ministry. "Love one another as I have loved you," is His great commandment to His disciples. When His disciples asked Him how to pray He taught them to say the words: "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." Our gospel passage this weekend is a reiteration of these words. God forgives us our sins, and our response must be to share that forgiveness with others.

This, I’m convinced, is the most difficult element of our faith. Not giving up meat on Friday’s, not waking up early each morning to pray my breviary and celebrate Mass. But forgiving people. It’s even more difficult than asking God to forgive me my sins. One of the hardest things to do is forgive someone. It’s hard enough to forgive someone who asks me for forgiveness, it’s exponentially harder to forgive someone who doesn’t ask my forgiveness. But however difficult this may be, Jesus makes clear that we must do it, we must desire it.

If we must do this: if we must forgive someone, then I think it is helpful for us if we see this not so much as a personal initiative on our own part, but rather if we see it as primarily a response. A response to the first action of God forgiving us.

The gospel passage we have just heard depicts the story of a man who made a crucial mistake in faith. He recognized his own need for forgiveness, but failed to recognize the need to share that forgiveness with his brother. He wanted what was coming to him. How different is our faith from some of the most basic attitudes our society operates upon. Let’s pray that God might strengthen us to share His forgiveness.

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