Sunday, September 17, 2017

"Cats Never Forgive" - Sermon for SUNDAY, September 17, 2017 - 15th Sunday after Pentecost

Then Peter came and said to him, "Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. "For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, 'Pay what you owe.' Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you.' But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?' And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart."

"Cats Never Forgive"
by Fr. Paul Andrew
Jail Ministry, Virginia

Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Saviour, Jesus who is the Christ. Amen

Cats never forgive. Scientists have observed conciliatory behavior in many different animal species, like gorillas, goats, and hyenas, whom often follow confrontations with friendly behavior like embracing or rubbing noses. The only species that has so far failed to show outward signs of reconciliation are domestic cats.

In other words, when it comes to forgiving others, don't act like a cat!

The Our Father prayer has a very high standard of forgiving....forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those trespass against us, and our Gospel Reading repeats the theme that pardoning others is a condition for receiving divine forgiveness.

e.g. General Oglethorpe once said to John Wesley, “I never forgive and I never forget.” To which Wesley replied, “Then, Sir, I hope you never sin.

Prudence is used in how we forgive because some people can be abusive, so we might have to love them at a distance. But prayer is the one of the most powerful expressions of love that we can offer.

To forgive seventy-seven times is biblical language for endless, AND it is meant to be contrasted with Genesis 4:24, which speaks of bad person who vowed vengeance, "seven-sevenfold." However, a theme which is repeated in Deut. 32:35 and Romans 12:19: Those who take vengeance into their own hands will become victims of divine vengeance.

To forgive is to enter in to Christ’s crucifixion with him. As he bore the pain of our sins, we are now asked to bear the pain of other’s offenses against us. Forgiving is hard because it’s a cross.

Lewis B. Smedes said, “When you forgive the person who hurt you deeply and unfairly, you perform a miracle that has no equal.”

The Jewish philosopher, Hannah Arendt, once had these wise words to say, "Forgivenss is only power which can stop the stream of painful memories."

Here are a couple extreme cases of forgiveness:
As Catholics, we believe God’s greatest attribute is mercy. When my 21-year-old brother was murdered in 2007 on the campus of Virginia Tech, I greatly struggled with this tenet of our faith. I felt abandoned by a God who lied to me about his goodness... A year after Matthew died, my family received a letter from the mother of a student who had survived the ordeal. She thanked us for our son and brother’s sacrifice, which she believed saved her daughter’s life. Cadet Matthew La Porte had barred the classroom door with a desk. When the shooter forced his way in, Matthew charged him and sustained 7 gunshot wounds... I prayed for healing. God said, ‘Forgive the shooter. Tell your story.’ A giant leap of faith and trust in him enabled me to do the impossible—to forgive my brother’s killer and share with others what I had experienced. It was then that my life changed a second time. Peace came to me when I put my energy into loving others rather than seeking revenge. Joy came when I saw how sharing my story helped others face their own personal struggles. Mercy does not allow those who wrong us to get away with injustice. Mercy repairs what is broken, restores hope, and molds us into holy souls who emulate more closely the heart of Jesus Christ. Mercy is everything.
~ Priscilla La Porte

Story no. 2—
In 1990 a drifter named Robert Knighton was convicted for murdering Richard Denny and his wife, Virginia, in rural Oklahoma. Knighton got $61 and an old truck from the robbery and murder. Richard Denny had an adopted daughter named Sue Norton. When Knighton’s trial began, Sue attended the trial… confused. ‘I should feel anger and want vengeance, but I was also taught I need to pray for him and forgive him,’ Sue said. During the trial, she learned of Knighton’s childhood: a mother who had been married six times; reformatories and prisons starting at the age of 12. The day the trial ended, she asked to meet with Knighton. He was six feet tall, shackled and angry. She took a deep breath and said, ‘If you are guilty, I forgive you.’ She offered her hand through the bars. He pulled back. She grabbed it and started praying. ‘I learned forgiveness is a gift to ourselves, not for the forgiven.’ She began to write to him and to visit him. ‘Executions just turn more families into victims,’ she said. She lost friends. Knighton became a Christian on Oklahoma’s death row. She was present at his 2003 execution, his only friend among the witnesses.

Our Gospel today says, “So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart. The catechism states that “it is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense”. It takes time for our hearts to catch up with our decision to forgive and say the words I forgive you. And there is Decisional forgiveness and emotional forgiveness.

A kindly Lutheran pastor said,
‘Up in that church tower,’ he said, nodding out the window, ‘is a bell which is rung by pulling on a rope. But you know what? After the sexton lets go of the rope the bell keeps on swinging. First ‘ding’ then ‘dong.’ Slower and slower until there’s a final dong and it stops. I believe the same thing is true of forgiveness. When we forgive, we take our hand off the rope. But if we’ve been tugging at our grievances for a long time, we mustn’t be surprised if the old angry thoughts keep coming for a while. They’re just the ding-dongs of the old bell slowing down’.

Reader's Digest once asked its readers to complete the sentence: "I Never Regret..."

Some of their readers responded:
"I never regret...the day I quit smoking."
~ Sandy Biss, Elbow Lake, MN

"I never regret...taking naps and leaving large tips."
~ Rhiannon Rae, Hershey, PA

"I never regret...serving my country."
~ Sharon Hicks, Clarksville, TN

And listen to this last response:
"I never regret....forgiving the person who caused me pain, which gave me relief I never thought I could have."
~ Erika Jones, New York, NY


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New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The New Revised Standard Version Bible may be quoted and/or reprinted up to and inclusive of five hundred (500) verses without express written permission of the publisher, provided the verses quoted do not amount to a complete book of the Bible or account for fifty percent (50%) of the total work in which they are quoted. Sermon shared by Fr. Paul Andrew on Aug 11, 2017.

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