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Scripture Reflections

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Sept. 17

Sirach 27:30-28:9
Romans 14:7-9
Matthew 18:21-35

Archives Msgr Paul E. Whitmore
Msgr. Paul E. Whitmore

This Sunday, we commemorate 22 years since a terrible wound was inflicted on our country by foreign terrorists. Devastating though it was to buildings that symbolize American power, the murder of thousands of lives that day was far greater. During these past two decades, families still grieve the loss of loved ones, and our nation still fights off insecurity and fear, as well as unforgiveness.

God is surely speaking to our hurts in the 27th and 28th chapters of Sirach that make up our first reading for this Sunday. “Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.” Just like a fearful child will hang on to an old piece of blanket, so will the “sinner” (that’s me!), hang on to unforgiveness. It’s mine! I’ll feel weak and defeated if I let it go And so we hug it to ourselves. Isn’t it something how slow we are to let old hurts heal? They will probably never heal until we see our enemies as human. We need to understand more of their anger and wrath. We need to know more about their religion, and what true and moderate Islam really teaches.

There’s more really good advice in today’s passage from Sirach. He asks how we can possibly expect healing from the Lord unless we let go our unforgiveness. Now that’s a thought to ponder. There’s a real connection between God’s forgiving me and my forgiving my neighbor. God says there is a connection, and we need to listen. It’s human to want revenge, but is it God’s way? How many times has God forgiven our sins and failings!
Look at the steward in this Sunday’s Gospel. He probably thought his Master was foolish and soft to forgive him the millions of dollars he owed, even though he gladly accepted the favor. But he evidently didn’t see any reason why he himself should act in the same way toward his fellow servant. And that servant owed a bare fraction of the debt his master had forgiven him.

What a huge debt we owe God for His great mercy toward us. Forgiving others is the way we pay that debt to God. And the funny thing is that we don’t really lose anything at all by forgiving. It’s not money out of our pocket, nor is it hurting our health. Just the opposite. Holding grudges is what hurts our health, while forgiving others is actually beneficial. To forgive means to let go, and letting go helps our blood pressure, slows down our heart rate, and soothes our nerves. How often we complain about being “stressed out”. Forgiving others opens our heart to God’s forgiveness, lowers our stress considerably, and helps us to pray better. Now, doesn’t that sound attractive? It’s a win-win situation.

On this weekend that commemorates the great assault to our national pride, the bombing of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, let’s bring ourselves to pray for a change of heart for all who are contemplating acts of terror or hatred this week.

Let’s throw in for good measure all who have offended us.

If we do, God will lift some of the weight from our hearts.

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