Gospel: MT 18:21-35
Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive him?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
That is why the Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began the accounting,
a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
Since he had no way of paying it back,
his master ordered him to be sold,
along with his wife, his children, and all his property,
in payment of the debt.
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’
Moved with compassion the master of that servant
let him go and forgave him the loan.
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants
who owed him a much smaller amount.
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding,
‘Pay back what you owe.’
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
But he refused.
Instead, he had him put in prison
until he paid back the debt.
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened,
they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master
and reported the whole affair.
His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?’
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”
As I have grown older, I have realized the importance of forgiveness. However, I have also realized how much harder it has gotten to forgive. Somewhere between an adult telling me to forgive my friend for stealing my crayon to learning how to forgive on my own, I had also learned how to keep a grudge and let it grow and grow until I finally could not forgive easily anymore. Needless to say, holding a grudge always seemed easier to do. A grudge ate away the strong desire to say, “I forgive you.”
I asked myself how do I get past my pride and forgive others repeatedly like Jesus taught us to do? In theory, it should not be hard to say three words, eleven letters, and four syllables to someone who has done the unimaginable to you, but in practice, we want to be like the servant and make the offenders pay us back for every pain they have caused us. I then took a step back and realized that God forgives us countless times for the many sins we have committed without a grudge.
Because Jesus taught us that God “forgives us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us,” we must “do unto others as we want do unto ourselves.” In a previous homily, I learned that we must receive God’s mercy in our lives to be able to outpour that mercy unto others; we were then challenged to show someone a sign of mercy that day, and luckily, I was able to do so. Through forgiving others, I am able to live as a better daughter of Christ and grow stronger spiritually because it takes courage to forgive others unceasingly.
Overall, Jesus tells us to be willing to forgive this Lenten season. We need to let go of our grudges and pride in order to readily forgive others the way God forgives us.
Gospel: LK 4:24-30
Jesus said to the people in the synagogue at Nazareth:
“Amen, I say to you,
no prophet is accepted in his own native place.
Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel
in the days of Elijah
when the sky was closed for three and a half years
and a severe famine spread over the entire land.
It was to none of these that Elijah was sent,
but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon.
Again, there were many lepers in Israel
during the time of Elisha the prophet;
yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”
When the people in the synagogue heard this,
they were all filled with fury.
They rose up, drove him out of the town,
and led him to the brow of the hill
on which their town had been built,
to hurl him down headlong.
But he passed through the midst of them and went away.
Sometimes it is truly frightening to stand alone. The powerful photograph of a single young man standing in front of the line of tanks during the demonstrations in Tiananmen Square brings many questions to mind. What makes that scene so powerful? What was he feeling in that moment? Why was he standing there? Was he scared? I know I would have been. It’s hard to stand up to a large group of people knowing that they may either dislike what you have to say or misunderstand what you say and hurt you because of the message. In this passage, Jesus stands alone. The group listens to his preaching and they are incensed with his words. Yet when I read this passage I think they misunderstand one of the messages Jesus is trying to impart about spreading the Good News. This makes me think of the power of acceptance and how it is vital for Christianity to welcome new members to the faith and love of God. Including those who want to share in the Good News of Christ happens through interaction with those outside of our faith. Sometimes we exclude people because they are different than we are, or they challenge ideas that we hold close to our hearts. We combat extremism and prejudice with inclusion and interaction. In the examples Jesus gives in this reading he reminds us that everyone is welcome. To God, everyone is worth His love including the skeptical Syrian leper and the trusting widow of Zarephath. God does not discriminate, or shun, or exclude; God is love and welcomes all who want to know Him. Neither the leper nor the widow was a follower of the true faith, but each leaves as a devotee. Without inclusion our faith would not grow and neither would God’s message. Many times, I feel like a member of the crowd, misunderstanding those messages behind the words. Is it that Jesus really wants to call out his fellow townspeople or condemn the people around him? I don’t think so. Instead I feel as though Jesus is reminding the faithful to welcome everyone and to seek out those who have not yet heard the Good News so that no person needs to feel excluded or alone. God is there with open arms and love for each of us.
Gospel: LK 15: 1-3, 11-32
Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus,
but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying,
“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
So to them Jesus addressed this parable.
“A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father,
‘Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’
So the father divided the property between them.
After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings
and set off to a distant country
where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.
When he had freely spent everything,
a severe famine struck that country,
and he found himself in dire need.
So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens
who sent him to his farm to tend the swine.
And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed,
but nobody gave him any.
Coming to his senses he thought,
‘How many of my father’s hired workers
have more than enough food to eat,
but here am I, dying from hunger.
I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him,
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
I no longer deserve to be called your son;
treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”’
So he got up and went back to his father.
While he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.
He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.
His son said to him,
‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you;
I no longer deserve to be called your son.’
But his father ordered his servants,
‘Quickly, bring the finest robe and put it on him;
put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
Take the fattened calf and slaughter it.
Then let us celebrate with a feast,
because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again;
he was lost, and has been found.’
Then the celebration began.
Now the older son had been out in the field
and, on his way back, as he neared the house,
he heard the sound of music and dancing.
He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean.
The servant said to him,
‘Your brother has returned
and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf
because he has him back safe and sound.’
He became angry,
and when he refused to enter the house,
his father came out and pleaded with him.
He said to his father in reply,
‘Look, all these years I served you
and not once did I disobey your orders;
yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends.
But when your son returns
who swallowed up your property with prostitutes,
for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’
He said to him,
‘My son, you are here with me always;
everything I have is yours.
But now we must celebrate and rejoice,
because your brother was dead and has come to life again;
he was lost and has been found.’”
Lost and Found
When I was 18 years old, I graduated from High School in June and in August; I left my parents’ home in Baton Rouge to join the Sisters of Christian Charity in Chicago. I am told my dad cried, but he didn’t let me see those tears. He simply let me go with his love and his blessing. What enables a parent to let go of their child and allow them to follow their own life? How does one learn to love so deeply that they allow another to leave them?
In the parable of the Prodigal Son we hear how the son asked the Father for “his share” of the estate, and the Father did as the son asked. What did the neighbors think of this Father? Did they ask if he was crazy? Did they shake their heads and wonder how long it would be before the son would come crawling home, begging to be taken back? And did they expect this Father to “teach that wayward son a lesson”? If they did, then they surely must have thought this Father was foolish when his son did return and the Father took him back lovingly and generously without any questions or words of rebuke!
What kind of love is this? What kind of love lets me make up my own mind, make serious mistakes, come back, time after time, asking for forgiveness and gives me chance after chance to get it right?!
I have come to believe that it is the kind of Love God has for me (and you)! Do I deserve it? No. Do I sometimes abuse it? Yes. Do I long for it and then rejoice like a person who has lost something precious when I once again discover it deep in my heart? You bet I do!!
So, how does God love me and how do I learn to love like that? God loves me with great patience, especially when I make mistakes, like thinking I am better than others or always right! God loves me with great tenderness when I recognize my faults and feel so unworthy of his kindness. God loves me with great love for no apparent reason at all, just because He does!!
I desire to learn to love others like that too, with patience, with tenderness and with great love no matter the response of the one I love. Sounds crazy? You bet it does!
Sometimes, I still get lost trying to find my own way and thinking I know best. That kind of Love, God’s Love, still waits for me to just turn around and come to my senses so I can be found once again! Can I do any less for others?
Gospel: MT 21:33-43, 45-46
Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
“Hear another parable.
There was a landowner who planted a vineyard,
put a hedge around it,
dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.
Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.
When vintage time drew near,
he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce.
But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat,
another they killed, and a third they stoned.
Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones,
but they treated them in the same way.
Finally, he sent his son to them,
thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’
But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another,
‘This is the heir.
Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’
They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?”
They answered him,
“He will put those wretched men to a wretched death
and lease his vineyard to other tenants
who will give him the produce at the proper times.”
Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures:
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done,
and it is wonderful in our eyes?
Therefore, I say to you,
the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you
and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables,
they knew that he was speaking about them.
And although they were attempting to arrest him,
they feared the crowds, for they regarded him as a prophet.
I’ve always liked climbing on the rocks behind the levee by Bonnabel Boat Launch. I love the feeling of being close to Lake Pontchartrain and the adventure of choosing rocks to steady my path. Sometimes, I put too much weight on a loose rock, lose my balance, and almost fall. I see this pattern occur in my spiritual life as well. When I place my value in things other than Christ, I fall, and the fall is not pretty.
Our greed to be the best and our desire to be accepted can transform us into different people, away from our true identity in Christ. In this Parable, Jesus mentions how the tenant farmers’ are led away from Heaven through their greedy actions to take the harvest. Jesus then tells the Pharisees that those who produce the proper fruit will receive the Kingdom of Heaven. These tenant farmers take extreme levels to to fulfill their desires, but oftentimes, our own selfish thoughts are not too far away from the thoughts of the tenant farmers. We fill ourselves with the need for things that are of this world, instead of letting the Holy Spirit change our desires to align ourselves with God.
Jesus makes the promise to us that He is the Cornerstone, meaning that He is the one that is and is to come, forever our fortress and foundation on which we stand. He promises us the Kingdom of Heaven, if we produce good fruit. During this Lenten season, let us take our sinful thoughts and desires and crucify them to the cross with Jesus. Through our adventures in life, Jesus is the one who gives us our strength and steadies our path. Therefore, let us think of Jesus as our cornerstone, the Rock that is the foundation for the world.
Gospel: LK 16:19-31
Jesus said to the Pharisees:
“There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen
and dined sumptuously each day.
And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,
who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps
that fell from the rich man’s table.
Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.
When the poor man died,
he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.
The rich man also died and was buried,
and from the netherworld, where he was in torment,
he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off
and Lazarus at his side.
And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me.
Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue,
for I am suffering torment in these flames.’
Abraham replied, ‘My child,
remember that you received what was good during your lifetime
while Lazarus likewise received what was bad;
but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.
Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established
to prevent anyone from crossing
who might wish to go from our side to yours
or from your side to ours.’
He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him
to my father’s house,
for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them,
lest they too come to this place of torment.’
But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets.
Let them listen to them.’
He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham,
but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
Then Abraham said,
‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets,
neither will they be persuaded
if someone should rise from the dead.’”
This passage is a difficult one. Jesus used this parable to warn the Pharasees of what would become of their obsession with money. In the end, the rich man asks for someone to go and warn his family, so they will not suffer his same fate. If only he had known, would he have lived differently? Jesus did not live a glamorous life. He lived among the poor, the sick, and the marginalized. Everything he said and did was for them. (For us!) It seems that we can very easily lose sight of this and chase the things that will bring us more money and more recognition; closer to those who are like us and more separate from those who are not.
Pope Francis said, "The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime, all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us." Jesus did not ignore the homeless. He did not exclude the outsider. He did not blame the sick. We have what the rich man in the parable asked for. God sent us the perfect example of how to live and love and care for his kingdom. Are we listening?
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