7th Sunday - Homily
Years ago, I decided to give up watching television for Lent. Yeah, that was a tough Lent! It was back when I was working in sales. I was doing pretty well with it until the NCAA basketball tournament started. I remember one particular day in the office when Maryland was playing that night. I really wanted to watch that game! So, I debated with myself and my co-workers about what to do. Finally, I came up with a trade-off: I would give up sodas that day. I wouldn’t have Cokes the rest of the day, and then I could watch the game.
One of my co-workers who was also a friend was watching all of this transpire. He wasn’t a Catholic; actually, he didn’t belong to any religion. He said to me, “wow, you Catholics sure take this Lent thing seriously”. I responded with, “it’s not a religion for wimps!”
Lent begins this Wednesday. We will all spend the next couple of days trying to figure out what one thing we will give up for Lent. Also, we need to come up with one thing to do for Lent. I have a suggestion for the one thing to do: forgive.
We hear all over the place in today’s Gospel to forgive in radical ways. Jesus says to love, bless, and pray for those who have hurt us. We might think this Gospel is either way up in the clouds or doesn’t apply to us. We might be saying, ‘I don’t have any enemies…no one has persecuted me…no one hates me’. But, I would imagine that each of us has to look no farther than our own families to see someone who we are at odds with or don’t get along with.
Or maybe this is true with someone in our parish family or our school family. One thing I have heard from many of you since I arrived last June is that we have a big problem at St. Andrew’s of factions, or groups, or cliques. Do we only love those who love us? Christ calls us to love everyone; St. Paul says in his letter to the Romans that we are to “have the same attitude toward all”.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 5 that before we approach the altar, we should reconcile with our brother (or sister) if we have had a problem with him (or her). So, we think of someone who we need to forgive. Maybe it’s a spouse…or a child…or a parent…or a priest…or a nun…or a sibling…or a friend…or a teacher…or a student…or a co-worker…or a fellow parishioner. Whoever it might be, we need to forgive them from our hearts before receiving the Eucharist today.
Then, the grace of this sacrament will help us to reconcile with them face-to-face during the season of Lent, if possible. Also, we should reconcile with God by going to Confession during Lent.
Christ reminds us that we will be forgiven if we have forgiven others. To forgive is to be Christian; to be Christian is to forgive.