Peace and grace to you all!
This weekend we are reminded that in order to experience God’s Kingdom of peace, harmony, hope, mercy, love, encouragement, and every other good thing from God, we must live in a manner in which we are always turning to God. We know that it is not always easy to do this. In fact, quite frequently people experience a resistance toward God’s will. They know in their head that God is always right and true, but for various reasons the feelings they have in their heart or desires they have do not coincide with God’s plan. Resolving a struggle like this can take just a few moments or many years! It varies from person to person and situation to situation.
In his letter to the Church at Philippi, St. Paul addresses the factions and rivalries that are destroying the good will and peaceful relationships that God desires for his people. St. Paul first points to harmony as a mark of God’s kingdom and what people really want: “being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing.” He further explains what is necessary to attain a harmonious experience when he says “Do nothing out of selfishness or vain glory; rather humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others.” This is the attitude of Christ Jesus and we should make his attitude our own. Remember the way Jesus emptied himself, the way he suffered and served others.
Jesus points out to the hardhearted and self-righteous Pharisees that prostitutes and criminals were experiencing the love and goodness of God when they turn away from sin and selfishness to obey God’s plan. We might see others around us experiencing the joy and love of God while we don’t. Our path is not against other people but against forces of darkness in order to follow the Gospel. Hopefully today, many of us who feel a desire for greater harmony and peace can be like the son who changed his mind, who listened and followed God’s plan. If people do this together, the harmony comes to be, but it only happens when they work together to achieve it. It never happens if only one tries. It is a strong reminder to us that we should really try to listen for what God wants for us and others while we pray in our hearts.
May God bless you all! +++ Fr. Peter
May the grace of Christ be your consolation and joy!
The past couple of weekends have been strong encouragements for us to continue our efforts in the work of personal conversion, transformation and renewal. This weekend’s message comes as a consolation because we are affirmed that God is generous in love and mercy. No one should fear to ask God for forgiveness. Perhaps the strongest encouragement to trust God’s love comes through St. Paul who was once a persecutor of the Church, a murderer, and God changed Paul’s heart with an experience of divine love rather than with punishment. Hopefully all of us can be completely won over by God’s love as St. Paul was for he said ”to me life is Christ, and death is gain . . . I long to depart this life and be with Christ for that is far better.”
In the Gospel, Jesus tells a parable that gives us a hint of how beautiful, generous, and loving God really is. If you or I had a job opportunity and we were treated like the last laborers hired in the story, we would be overwhelmed with amazement. That kind of generosity does not exist on earth! That’s why Jesus’ parable is so powerful! And yet, it only hints toward the truth about the greatness of God’s love and mercy. In reality, God is too good to be true! God’s goodness is beyond our imagination and our understanding. Jesus tells us that none of our good deeds will ever be forgotten! The parable encourages us to be laborers for God’s kingdom and the reward for our acts of service and efforts to make Jesus known and loved will have an incomparable reward. The invitation is there, do you hear it?
God bless you! +++ Fr. Peter
May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts!
This weekend’s readings draw us to reflect more deeply upon the way of forgiveness, which is different than reconciliation.
The sage in the book of Sirach begins by describing negative behavior based upon sin. He then directs the reader’s thoughts toward higher realms by posing a simple logical question: how can you expect forgiveness and peace for yourself, if you keep angry and hateful thoughts toward someone else? It doesn’t make sense! In the Gospel, Peter’s question seems logical because we all get exasperated at times when there are repeated behaviors that offend us and there is no sign of change (imagine what it must be like to struggle with an addiction!). According to Peter, there has to be some limit so that you can withdraw from being hurt. I can understand Peter’s point. I am sure that many of you do too. Jesus, the Fount of All Wisdom, guides us to the kingdom of heaven through Peter’s question. Forgiveness must be given by us, so that we also may be forgiven: there is no choice. Forgiveness means laying down the right to just retribution or recompense for an offense against you. It is given over to God. It can only be given by the one offended. It cannot be bought, sold, or merited by an offender. This is forgiveness.
Reconciliation is another matter. To be reconciled is to have a relationship repaired and trust re-established. The offender must make a sincere apology, then demonstrate a change in behavior to manifest the change of heart & mind. The decision to allow the person back into a relationship of mutual trust rests with the one who was offended. Depending upon the magnitude and frequency of the offense, reconciliation may or may not be possible. When reconciliation is not possible, it is still possible to forgive by giving the pain and offender over to God. In the sacrament of Penance, God reconciles us to himself. Even though we will sin again, God will always embrace us because his love is so great!
Understanding the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation is important because not everyone who offends is going to apologize, nor are they necessarily able to change. In such cases, we have to forgive so that we do not carry the wound in our hearts. We can be free and well by trusting them to God who knows what is best for them and us! Thank you Jesus for this freedom!
God bless you all! +++ Fr. Peter
Peace and grace to you!
In the first reading, the prophet Ezekiel is placed in a position of responsibility before God. Part of Ezekiel’s responsibility includes confronting wrong doing and giving instruction when necessary so that those who err, may turn back to God and away from their faults. The difficulty for Ezekiel is that God will hold him accountable if he fails to point out the error by remaining silent.
We receive a similar challenge in the Gospel but Jesus gives us some excellent additional advice by outlining a method that actually works very well in most cases. If you have ever had a conflict or disagreement with another Christian or person of good will, you have no doubt discovered how well Jesus’ method works! Seldom does it happen that other people must become involved. Frequently, both parties want resolution and the matter is quickly settled and greater friendship results. However, this is not always the case. Jesus’ instructions show us the way to proceed when a challenge continues, if it persists without resolution, it is best to separate from that person.
Jesus is as serious about sin as he is about peace and our offering to God. He asks us to reflect within ourselves to discern if another has anything against us—we must be humble and transparent before God, who knows us through and through and go make an apology to that person. Most of us try to be honest and sincere in this regard. Some have a great deal of pride and refuse to admit they have done anything wrong—like the last case scenario that Jesus indicates today. Sadly, they have few if any friends and poor relationships because they hurt people and refuse to apologize or change their attitude.
When someone sins against us, there is a responsibility to let the other person know. Sometimes other witnesses have a shared responsibility to point out the fault so the offender can make an apology and amend their ways.
Sometimes it’s easier to remain silent without confronting them for their behavior. But Jesus’ instructions are intended to not allow hurt or anger to grow and create a gap caused by sin. Jesus wants us to be happy and have good relationships with other people. Following Jesus always leads to the way of peace and reconciliation. It requires love for God first, for God is above all things—as we say in our act of contrition. It also requires, love of neighbor—for God asks us to love them.
In our “Love Dare Journey” many of us discovered new and effective ways to deepen our relationships—it brought us a lot of joy! Perhaps there is something in Jesus’ words for you today that will help you lead a happier, fuller life! God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter