Saturday, September 10, 2011

Twenty-Fourth Sunday of the Year A: Reflections- Fr. Udoekpo Michael

Twenty Fourth Sunday of the Year A: Reflections- Fr. Michael Udoekpo
Readings: Sirach 27; 30–28:9; Ps103:1-4, 9-12; Rom 14:7-9 and Matt 18:21-35

 A Community of the Forgiven

 In the Second reading of today Paul says, “None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live ,we live for the Lord and if we die, we die for the Lord" (Rom 14:7-9). This  makes sense when we look back individually, as a family, a seminary, a church, as a community or society at God’s gratuitous acts of creation (bara’) in Genesis 1–11. 

 Yes, Adam and Eve had disobeyed, Cain offended Abel, man was arrogant with the structure of tower of Babel, yet God would still forgive. He would love. He showed this loving plan in His covenants with Noah, Abraham (12–50) and Moses (Exodus) whom he called. Besides Peter, Paul, Augustine and other saints in recent history, many Judges and Kings had come and gone with fractured covenant promises that led to exiles, but with enduring hope of restoration in a forgiving Christ, God’s incarnate.

This same forgiving image of God who freely and gratuitously created us in his own likeness and liberated us through his compassion is extolled by the Psalmist today:

“The Lord is  kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.” A God who creates and liberates no matter what! He wants us to be like him, to imitate him in his compassion, orderliness and peace.

How do we respond to these image likeness of God? His compassion, forgiveness and love. How do I react to someone who gives me hard time challenges my faith, my beliefs and values so that when I pray as a Christian my sins would be forgiven?

Ben Sira and his contemporaries  had undoubtedly suffered terrible injustices including threats to their faith and existence in hands of Hellenism. Sometimes something similar to what we may continue to suffering today. Yet he recommended in the first reading, forgiveness and practice of those laws given to Moses by God in the midst of such difficulties. “Wrath and anger” he says are “hateful things.” We should always “think of the commandments” overlook faults and hate not our neighbors with vengeful spirits.

Similarly in the Gospel of Matthew 18:21-35 Jesus reminds us that there should be no limit to forgiveness expressed rhetorically in “seventy-seven times seven,” (v 22) completely opposite Lamech’s vengeful spirit in Genesis4:24.  The illustration of Jesus with this parable of the unforgiving servant, once forgiven is compelling. If the master had forgiven  him, showed him clemency and mercy, he is supposed to imitate the  master- Christ in this case by forgiving  his friend in return, even with such  an incomparable  fragment of debt (v 33).

We need prayers at this Holy Mass, because it is getting harder and challenging in today's world of  wars, revenge, terrorism, litigations and discriminations, sometimes in a very fanciful and disquised  "sugar coated " manner. Where do we draw the line between particular civil laws of particular nations, of particular culture and the universal message of the Gospel- even after adaptation and inculturation. As a forgiving community when do we go to  civil  courts as Christians and when do we begin to imitate Christ, Paul and Ben Sira, or forgive as a community of the forgiven?