by Lisa Fernandes
“To err is human, to forgive divine” as Alexander Pope wrote. Today’s readings capture this difficult path we all have to travel. We want to be forgiven our human transgressions, as difficult as it is for us to forgive others. As in the first reading: “Forgive your neighbour the wrong that is done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray.” (Sirach 28.2)
Today’s Gospel reading tells us more about forgiveness. The parable is about a slave whose debt is forgiven by his king but who does not “pay it forward” and show forgiveness to a fellow slave who is indebted to him but instead tortures him, and thus warns us: “So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” (Matthew 18.35)
The difficulty of forgiveness is shown when Peter asks Jesus if seven times is enough to forgive his brother or sister and: “Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18.22)
Seven is a significant number in the Bible usually related to completeness and perfection (God rested on the seventh day after creating the heavens and earth, and seven pairs of clean animals went on the ark etc…) so this is not a literal counting but a lesson about the limitlessness of forgiveness. In the Old Testament, the number seven was more associated with revenge: “Then the LORD said to him, ‘Not so! Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance.’ ”(Genesis 4.15) while the New Testament has a contrasting emphasis on forgiveness.
God forgives us unconditionally; how can we aspire to do the same with others? We can start small. If someone cuts you off on the road, instead of road rage forgive them and give them the benefit of the doubt. Or if someone doesn’t hold the door for you, give them a pass. Every week in Mass when we say the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” There are role models both religious and secular, such as Nelson Mandela who forgave and reconciled with those who had kept him captive.
As C.S. Lewis put it, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you”.
by Elizabeth Chesley-Jewell
Anyone that knows me well knows that I am not comfortable with confrontation and conflict. But I know that I am not alone; the self-help section of Indigo assures me of this. In our Gospel today it appears that Jesus Christ himself was quite aware that managing conflict requires a “How To” lesson and a pep talk. Jesus provides His disciples with directives on conflict resolution, and how in general, conflict between two individuals comes to affect the entire community.
If a resolution does not occur between two people in private, then witnesses must be made present to aid in the resolution process. If the wrongdoer still refuses to listen, then the ordeal must be taken to the heads of the Church. Finally, if it is clear that the individual will not acknowledge their misconduct, they are to treated “as a gentile and a tax collector”.
However, we listen to the words of Jesus reiterated in Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans, “Love your neighbour as yourself.” To resolve any conflict, we must be able to call on that very simple commandment. It does not mean we want to become friends with this person or that we have any desire to associate with them once the conflict has reached its end. It does mean, however, that we recognize the basic human desire to be listened to and understood, and that we are willing to, in turn, provide that to the one who has harmed us. It takes immense courage and strength; it is not always easy, but it is worth it.
At the end of the Gospel, Jesus offers one last piece of advice that brings us back to the Letter to the Romans. He says, “Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” I find these words most encouraging. Yes, sometimes we struggle to resolve conflict. But, if two people enter a conflict and still recognize the goodness within one another, and desire a resolution, then God is present. God will provide the courage to do the hard work all relationships require.
God our Father, who knows our deepest desires: give strength and courage to those experiencing conflict throughout the world to approach their neighbour with love, understanding and a willingness to reconcile.
A HOUSE FOR ALL PEOPLES
By Father Morgan V. Rice, CSB
The first reading from Isaiah ends with the Lord’s saying, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (56:7). The psalm echoes that notion of all people offering prayer to God in the response, “Let the peoples praise you, O God, let all the peoples praise you!” (67:3). Would that not be a beautiful experience of a united human family that has come to know our merciful and loving God shown to us in the person of Jesus Christ? I believe we get tastes of it when we, a diverse people representing different nations, cultures, ages, and backgrounds, gather together at the Eucharist to worship the Lord and be nourished by Jesus. This I have witnessed during my two or so months here at St. Basil’s; however, we know this is not the case in all parts of our world.
I received my undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia (UVA) in Charlottesville, Va., where the violent and hateful events of last weekend occurred. The demonstration of one group of people claiming to be superior to others goes against the future the Lord has laid out and against what Jesus taught us by his compassion and non-violence. Instead of the community of trust, mutual respect, and life that the Lord desires, the actions of those in Charlottesville led to the loss of human life and an atmosphere of fear and division. Condemning the violence at UVA, the university’s Rector wrote in a message to alumni, “We are all here for a purpose, and the events of the last few days have leant that purpose greater clarity and urgency”.
Events like Charlottesville certainly do clarify our purpose as women and men striving to live out Gospel values and bring the Good News of Christ to all. One of those values is to open ourselves to the gifts and goodness of others who come from backgrounds that we might have been taught to fear or be suspicious of. We do that when we make it a point to encounter and get to know others, particularly those who are different from us, with a belief that we can learn and be transformed from our interactions. Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman and the recognition of her tremendous faith demonstrated that his mission was broader than originally understood. To what insights might our interactions lead us?
In a couple of weeks, university students from around the world will be coming to begin the academic year. The University of St. Michael’s College campus will be abuzz with Orientation Week activities. As part of those activities, students will be attending the 4:30pm Mass on Sunday, 3 September. My hope is that hundreds will come to celebrate and will find a welcoming home at St. Basil’s, where together we can all join in praise of God and truly be a house of prayer for all peoples.
Isaiah 56.1, 6-7 2