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Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sep. 11, 2011 (24A)
By Father Cusick
The Church, the Body of Christ on earth, is one. Christ prayed that "they all be one" in his priestly prayer in the Gospel according to St. John.
Today, in the Gospel according to St. Matthew, chapter eighteen, verses twenty-one to thirty-five, Christ teaches that this oneness among his faithful is the authentic witness to His Lordship. Such unity comes about among all the Church's members through forgiveness. Peter asks the Lord, "How many times must I forgive my neighbor?" A good student of the Old Testament, he proposes the number seven. The Lord then reveals what true perfection will be among the men and women who truly seek the kingdom. They will forgive not seven times, but seventy-times seven times. They will forgive time and time again, time without numbering, without counting. Just as the Church of Christ is the reign of peace, so the kingdom is lacking where there is violence.
Lack of forgiveness is at the root of the abominable murders and warfare that have afflicted the world from the time of Cain and Abel. We are sickened by the stories of angry violence, of murder, of beatings, even within families. Media relentlessly reports parents murdering children, and children murdering parents. We confront now the horrors of partial-birth abortions, and abortifacient contraception, where the unborn child is not forgiven for being alive. Our bishops have asked that we fast from meat on Fridays for a year in reparation for this particular form of violence.
In so many cases today, the unhappiness and horrors in the world exist because the key to a peaceful life remains a hidden treasure. As we pray in the Our Father: "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." The forgiveness of the Lord, made possible through his passion, death and resurrection, and the peace which is its fruit, becomes something we experience, in a powerful and continuing way, through our practice of forgiving each other.
The witness of the Church is this forgiving love: "see how they love one another." The peace of God between neighbors is interconnected with the peace among men who love God. The Catechism reminds us: "Thus the Lord's words on forgiveness, the love that loves to the end (Jn 13:1) become a living reality. The parable of the merciless servant, which crowns the Lord's teaching on ecclesial community, ends with these words: 'So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.' (Mt. 18:23-25) It is there, in fact, "in the depths of the heart," that everything is bound and loosed. It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession." (CCC 2843)
We are freed from passion and anger, with which we allow our injuries to imprison us, by the transforming power of forgiveness. We forgive in Christ, and in Christ we regain the peace and serenity that were robbed from us when we failed to forgive. Let's pray for each other until, again next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy."