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HOMILY FOR 9/13/2020: 24TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
MSGR. PAUL ENKE
I had the opportunity this past week to greet our preschool students as they came here to St. Edward’s. Some—of course—were fearful, others joyful, and still others thinking, “Why are my mom and dad leaving me here alone?” But by the end of the day, I'm sure their fears were turned to happiness. May it be so for all of us as we also confront our own fears.
The scripture today is powerful in its treatment of what can keep us joyful, and that is the mercy and forgiveness we find in God, and then the mercy that we are to extend to others who have wronged us. Recall these words from Sirach in the first reading as we are tempted to nurse our own hearts: “Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven. Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord?” And, you know, this was centuries before the Lord would tell the disciples—and still us today: forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others.
Here's a dramatic illustration that I read about the other day to remind us that, yes, forgiveness is possible. In a kitchen in New York in 2000, two fathers met and talked. One, Bud Welch, lost his daughter Julie in the 1995 Oklahoma bombing. The other, William McVeigh, is the father of the convicted killer. Welch, a Catholic, fought to prevent the execution of Timothy McVeigh, but at first, he could have killed that bomber with his own hands. Gradually he realized the execution was not going to help his healing.
Now, few of us are trying to forgive murder, but all of us probably hold a grudge against someone. Maybe it's that noisy neighbor, a co-worker who took credit for our ideas, or family member who took advantage of us. So what situation or person is plaguing us right now? Maybe it all goes back to that tag line from the movie
. You know, remember: love means having never to say you're sorry. For followers of Jesus, the exact opposite is true. Jesus tells us that love means having to say you're sorry.
Most of us have been hurt, even hurt deeply, by someone or several others over the course of our lives—myself as well as you. A French priest and spiritual director has some words for us when that happens: when he said that when we hurt, we are hurt by another, do what Jesus did when he was on the cross and forgive his enemies, saying, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” What a great insight that is: to forgive, we have to go through the heart of the Father.
The late Fr. Henri Nouwen takes that a bit farther when he writes in
The Inner Voice of Love
. He said, “Do not hesitate to love and to love deeply. You might be afraid of the pain that deep love can cause. When those you love deeply hurt you, reject you, leave you, or die, your heart will be broken. But that should not hold you back from loving deeply. The pain that comes from deep love makes your love ever more fruitful. It is like a plow that breaks the ground to allow the seeds to take root and grow into a strong plant. So every time you experience the pain of rejection, absence, or death, you are faced with a choice. You can become bitter and decide not to love again, or you can stand straight in your pain and let the soil on which you stand become richer and more able to give life to new seeds.”
And so, dear friends, may our good God give us all the strength to stand straight in our pain, and again forgive and love those who have wronged us. This indeed will give new life to new seeds, and for that, we thank God.
The quotation from
The Inner Voice of Love
is available on
the website of the Henri Nouwen Society
on Saturday, September 12 at 2:47PM