Offers food for thought
The Twenty Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time
In the second reading, St. Paul challenges us to be certain of our identity, by which we are strengthened to avoid becoming someone who fits the description found in the first reading! So, who are we? All of us here, in this house of God, who are about to receive communion… who are we? Those of us who will pray the Lord’s prayer and presumably mean it? Who are we? Are we children of darkness? Are we serving in the platoons of the enemy, at war with God? Are we unaware of the truth of what we believe and profess in the Creed?
OR, are we brothers and sisters who live for the Lord? The Lord who died for all, so that [we] who live might no longer live for [ourselves], but for Him who died and rose again on [our] behalf. 2 Corinthians 5:15 Are we people who embrace being creations who are made by God in the image and likeness of God? Are we people who, relying on God’s grace, are kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion; in imitation of our Lord? Are we children of God, of light and love, who know our own guilt and the debt we owe to Christ which we could never repay.
What if I said, no one leaves this Church today until they stop embracing hateful things and instead, choose life, choose to forgive. What if I said, no one gets to receive communion until they’ve opened their hearts to God, ready to give and receive forgiveness and really mean the words… “Lord I am not worthy, but only say the word and my soul will be healed.” What would you do? Who would you call? You might want to start with your spouse, and your kids who might be here with you… as you give the sign of peace and say those words…
During Mass, have you ever really considered the order of the parts? Particularly, the communion rite during the liturgy of the Eucharist. It begins with praying together as Jesus taught us… “Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (keeping in mind the words of Jesus who said, “If you forgive others the wrongs they have done to you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you. But, if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive the wrongs you have done.” Matthew 6: 12,14-15).
Then the Priest leads us in a concluding prayer which includes the petition, “grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress…” Followed by an invitation to offer each other a sign of that forgiveness which leads to unity and peace, to each other. This ‘sign of peace’ between us, is intended to demonstrate our unity with and love for one another. It's symbolically, and maybe for you in that moment, it’s very much really about the forgiveness that leads to reconciliation which gives rise to peace and effects unity, in the full spirit of Christ. Here, we are reminded of the words of Jesus' exhortation in, "If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift." Matthew 5:23-24
"Christ is our peace, the divine peace, announced by the prophets and by the angels, and which he brought to the world by means of his paschal mystery," the 2005 circular letter on the ritual expression of the gift of peace at Mass, said. "This peace of the risen Lord is invoked, preached and spread in the celebration [of Mass], even by means of a human gesture lifted up to the realm of the sacred,” it continued. This exchange of peace comes after the consecration because it refers to the 'paschal kiss' of the risen Christ present on the altar, and it comes just before the breaking of the bread during which the Lamb of God is implored to gives us his peace.
Despite popular practice, especially among small groups and parishes, that sign of peace isn't about romantic affection, shaking as many hands as possible or high fiving your best buds. This is a profound moment in the liturgy after which we fall to our knees, recognize and adore the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, call upon his mercy, and then humbly acknowledge our weaknesses, our utter unworthiness and our absolute need for and dependence upon God to make us worthy.
Then, and only then, we approach the altar to receive the Lord in the Eucharist.
Yes, very powerful, if we are more like the merciful master and less like the other guy in the Gospel today. There are two big lessons about forgiveness in that Gospel. We are challenged to understand that there is to be no limit on the amount of times we forgive each other, because we ourselves have been forgiven a debt we could never repay. And let’s be honest… we’ve been forgiven by God probably more times than we could count.
We, as the children of God, are to reject an approach to our relationships which does nothing except produce death, pain, grief and the seeds for more of the same. Instead, being fully secure in the knowledge of being totally loved by God we realize that forgiveness and reconciliation aren’t really that difficult.
Some of us, will no doubt complain that this sort of attitude about forgiveness only breeds license in others. So, it’s good to acknowledge that although we must be always ready to forgive, we must also fight against sin. Forgiveness of the person, is not acceptance of the behavior. Nor is condoning unrepented sinful thoughts words and actions, expected. The Christian community ought not to fully receive a member who refuses reconciliation and healing of behavior that is contrary to our nature, to the truth and love.
Peace doesn't just happen; it's made.
CampusPadre is a college ministry Priest Chaplain with 30 years experience in youth and young adult ministry, who strives to let the Holy Spirit lead and challenges students to seek holiness above all.