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Posts Tagged ‘Matthew 18:21-35’


Good Friday, April 2, 2021

Amos 8

Lucas Cranach: Christ and the Adulterous Woman

Lucas Cranach: Christ and the Adulterous Woman

Unlimited Mercy

In a March 2009 reflection, Robert Morneau ponders the forgiveness, mercy and compassion shown to the family of the killer Charles Carl Roberts, the man who murdered five girls and wounded others in a Pennsylvania schoolhouse in 2006. Morneau cites Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, OMI.

“In a world and a culture that is full of wounds, anger, injustice, inequality, historical privilege, jealousy, resentment, bitterness, murder, and war, we must speak always and everywhere about forgiveness, reconciliation, and God’s healing. Forgiveness lies at the center of Jesus’ moral message. The litmus test for being a Christian is not whether one can say the creed and mean it, but whether one can forgive and love an enemy”. (Morneau 46-47)

These words are so true – and yet so difficult.

In a MAGNIFICAT Mini-Reflection on Matthew 18:21-35 we read: After a master forgives his servant a huge debt, that servant refuses similar clemency to a fellow indebted servant. The other servants become “deeply disturbed,” for to receive “great mercy” is in a certain sense to become great mercy. Mercy is our identity, for we are created out of the very mercy of God. (Cameron 29 March 2009)

In today’s Noontime we read about people who not only lack mercy or forgiveness, they buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals. They not only lack compassion, they sell the sweepings of the wheat. They would not likely have forgiven the adulterous woman as Jesus does. (Luke 8:1-11) All we need do is tune into the daily news to see or hear events we can identify as equivalent to the events referenced by Amos. It seems that the human race insists on corruption. Yet it seems that Jesus has not abandoned us. He accompanies us still as we struggle with our instinct to survive at all costs.

What we read in Amos is gloomy and sad – yet this prophet offers us a way out of the darkness by calling us to conversion of our mourning with acts of mercy as we move through our days. We need not frustrate ourselves in trying to change our enemies, we need only act with compassion as did the people in the Amish community when they immediately offered forgiveness to the man who had killed their children and himself. And when they visited with the killer’s family to extend their condolences.

This story is true – and yet so difficult.

This Amish community calls us to ask questions of ourselves, and so on this day of holy sacrifice, let us consider. Can we live up to the standard Amos poses? Do we pass the litmus test the prophet suggests? Do we extend the same limitless mercy to others that God extends to us?


Find the story about Charles Carl Roberts at: https://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/mother-amish-killer-cares-survivor-son-massacre-article-1.1542337

Morneau, David. “The Litmus Test”. DAILY REFLECTIONS FOR LENT: Not by Bread Alone. Collegeville, Minnesota. 2011.46-47. Print.

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 29 March 2009. Print.

Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Follower_of_Lucas_Cranach_(II)_-_Jesus_Christ_and_the_woman_taken_in_adultery.jpg

Today’s Noontime is adapted from a reflection written on March 29, 2011.

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Los Angeles Times: 2019 Fire at Carquinez Bridge

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Wrath and Anger

Last Sunday was the twenty-fourth in Ordinary time and the themes from those readings continue to resonate within. Arriving in a time when we experience great medical, social, political, and ecological stress, we must be grateful for their teaching.

Sirach 27:30 to 28:7: We are accustomed to the advice that continues to serve us millennia after Jesus ben Sirach captures God’s inspired message. Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight. This Old Testament admonition leads us to dualistic thinking that we are justified in exacting an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth; but the New Testament readings balance the urge to seek revenge.

Romans 14:7-9: None of us lives for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. With New Testament thinking, we remember that each word we speak is our representation of God’s breath in creation. Each action we take is Christ’s hand among us. Each prayer we raise is a prayer of the Holy Spirit. How then can we foster hate and division? How can we seek revenge in anger? How can we hope and pray for another’s destruction?

Matthew 18:21-35 offers a way forward, a way to transform our human, childish wants into childlike trust in God. How often must we forgive? The parable of the unforgiving servant is a stark reminder that when we extend mercy, understanding, and forgiveness, we extend the hand of God. When we trust that God has a plan for all that seems incomprehensible, we think with the mind of Christ. And when we love with unending love, we love in the Spirit.

Psalm 103 offers us this final thought: The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion. Not according to our sins does God deal with us, nor does God requite us according to our crimes. God pardons all your iniquities, heals all your ills, redeems your life from destruction, crowns you with kindness and compassion.

In a time when a best seller work of non-fiction bears the single-word title Rage, we need these readings. In a time when a pandemic continues to turn lives upside down, we need one another. In a time when forests burn and tempests rage, we must help one another. In a time when weapons speak before words, we must listen to one another. In a time when so many ask, “Where is your God”, we must live in faith and hope. In a time when words of wrath and anger are normalized in a world called to love, we must heal one another. For it is in our steadfast response to God’s call for patience and compassion that we are transformed.

Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight. How often must we forgive? Not seven times, but seven times seventy-seven times. Jesus reminds us that we must interact with our enemies as our neighbors, for in so doing we help to save the world.


For more reflections on wrath, enter the word in the blog search bar and explore. 

The image of compassionate hands is from: https://news.berkeley.edu/2020/04/14/calm-amid-covid-compassion/

Click on the image to find videos in which “UC Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner discusses the benefits of compassion for others and ourselves.

The image and story of the fire at Carquinez Bridge are from a 2019 article in the Los Angeles Times. 

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-10-27/major-fire-breaks-out-at-carquinez-bridge-in-vallejo-interstate-80-closed

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Sirach 27:30-28:7: Limitless 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Jan Van Hemessen: The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant

Once we begin to enact our own shepherd parable, we will want to keep in constant touch with the healer, guide and protector who calls us. We will need to put aside our negative thoughts and emotions. And we will need to be open to the positive flow of goodness the Shepherd bestows on us.

From last Sunday’s readings (24th Sunday in Ordinary time) we find words of wisdom. Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight. The sins we commit are our many or few big and little separations from God more than a list of specific immoralities. Could anyone refuse mercy to another and expect healing from the LORD? Fortunately for us, the Shepherd forgives endlessly and so we too must practice giving the gift of forgiveness to those who harm us. Sirach describes how we must step away from our dual, black-and-white perspective to open ourselves to the broad, generous arms and heart of the Shepherd.

Claude Vignon: Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

In Matthew 18:21-35 Jesus tells his disciples – and he tells us today – that we must forgive endlessly, just as we are forgiven. “I say to you, not seven times seven but seventy-seven times”. Scholars tell us the number 7 is special in scriptural context. It’s special meaning implies a sense of completion or even perfection. Knowing this, we might ask, how much is seventy-seven times, and who among us counts each word of forgiveness as we dole it out to others? Far better, Jesus tells us, when we listen to the lesson of the unforgiving servant, that we forgive others endlessly from our hearts.

Today we reflect on these verses and gather strength to live out our shepherding parable with forgiveness that is more than seven times seven. With forgiveness that is an infinite seventy-seven times.

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