Homily - 11th Sep 2011

24th Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year A

Ecclesiasticus 27:30 – 28:7
Psalm  102
Romans 14:7-9
Matthew 18:21-35
These readings can be found at  Mass Readings from Universalis

Do you remember where you were 10 years ago? The day was Tuesday the 11th of September 2001. Can you remember how you felt watching the pictures from New York? Did you know people who might be in Manhattan? Were you shocked, hurt, angry, confused, frightened?

When in the last ten years did you forgive the people that carried out the attack, that planned the attack, that paid for the attack? Have you in fact forgiven them at all? And if you have how do feel about them now?

How did you feel in 2002 when the bombs went of in Bali? Did you forgive them again? What about the train bombing in Madrid in 2004? Did you forgive them again? And then the London Bombings of 7th July 2005? Did you forgive them again? How many times would you forgive them? Would you forgiven three times which was the teaching at the time of Jesus. Or would you double and add one as Peter did, and forgive them 7 times? Or would you always forgive as Christ teaches?

I wanted steer away from using 9/11 as an example today. It's a huge subject that is emotional and painful for us all to think about. But when I started to think about today's readings and the hard challenge we face as Christians called to forgive, forgive even the worst of crimes, I can't ignore the example that will be all around us this weekend. But forgiveness isn't about forgetting, so it's right this weekend that we pray for those that lost their lives, were injured or who lost friends and family. But as we pray, think on today's readings about forgiveness, re-read them, and seriously think about how you can forgive.

Jesus tells us a story today about a servant who owed 10,000 talents to his master, and of a man who owed 100 denarii to that servant. Now I always get interested at details like 10,000 talents and 100 denarii. You guess that 10,000 talents is bigger than 100 denarii, but do you know how much bigger. Well 100 denarii is probably about £100 in today's money. You can understand someone wanting it back, but how much is 10,000 talents. It's actually about £500 million pounds, that's more than the £479M annual budget of South Gloucester County Council. And considerably more than the 300 talents that Rome took in taxes from the areas around Galilee where Jesus was teaching. The sum is huge, why would Jesus name a figure this high. He wanted to make the point that God will forgives us anything, He will forgive us everything. But he also taught that as we are forgiven we have to forgive. The injustices we have to forgive may be smaller but we still have to forgive.

If we don't forgive we allow anger and resentment to grow in our hearts.

Our first reading today called these emotions foul. They can lead to vengeance and certainly to sin. Think how you act when you are angry? How kind are you to a person you resent? This is difficult teaching, on the surface it seems simple, but in practice it's hard.

When I looked honestly at my life over the last few weeks I realised I have had a very difficult time at work. Many of the people around me didn't do things that I needed done. As a result my team have had a difficult time. I resented this and have been been quite angry about it. Then I come to prepare this homily and I realise how poisonous that anger has been. If I want to help my team I need to forgive those who are letting us down and find ways to explain to them what's happening and to work with them to improve things. I will probably find I have been lettering them down as well. Anger doesn't let me do Christ's work in this world, forgiveness clears the anger away, lets Christ back into my life, and allows me again to do his work.

As Christian's we are called not just to church on a Sunday but to do Christ's work in the world. In a few moments, to strengthen us for that work,  we will celebrate the Eucharist. In preparation for that gift we offer each other the sign of peace.  That gesture is symbolic of the forgiveness you are offering your sisters and brothers for any offence they have caused. By forgiving them you have cleared away the anger and resentment and started doing Christ's work, a work that the Eucharist will strengthen you to do. A work that you will take out into the world after Mass.

As you go about your busy lives this week, can I ask you to find a little time to re-read today's first reading and  gospel reading, and to think about who you need to forgive. It doesn't matter if it is your boss at work or the terrorist behind 9/11. Today's teaching is simple. If someone does you wrong, forgive them. God promises forgiveness of our sins, the things you have done wrong, and He expects you to forgive others.

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