The following is by Father Valentine Young, OFM, a faithful Catholic priest who died on 17 January 2020. It was delivered sometime between 2013 and 2020. To learn more about Father Valentine, please scroll to the bottom of the page.
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
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—Taken from the Saint Isaac Jogues Illuminated Missal, Gradual, and Lectionary.
HE FIRST READING from the Old Testament and the Gospel reading are both about the need for us to forgive others when they may have done us wrong. With regards to the Old Testament reading, I don’t know how popular this book of Sirach is among people who make it a point to read the Bible with some frequency, but today’s short selection has some excellent advice for everyday living. I like it, in the sense that I find the very first line of today’s reading a very graphic description of the way some people seem to be. Often the wrathful and angry person seems to want to hang on to their anger and wrath, almost as if it is giving them some kind of fiendish or diabolical pleasure. In the meanwhile, their blood pressure is probably going up and up and up. But then the rest of the lesson goes on to what our Lord is trying to teach us in The New Testament reading. And that is: If we want to be forgiven, we had better be willing to forgive others. Our Lord first tells us this by saying there should be no limit to the number of times that we should be willing to forgive our brother. (That is really what He meant by that “seventy times seven.”) And then He tells a story or parable further to bring out the lesson.
The Our Father: Jesus actually gave us a good reason why we should forgive when He first taught us what we know as THE LORD’S PRAYER. Those few words—“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”—really sum it up for us. In fact, these few words could be some of the most incriminating words we ever pray if we don’t observe them. In these few words, we are asking God to forgive us in proportion to the way or manner we are willing to forgive others who may do us wrong. That is one way of stating it. Another way is to say that we are telling God not to forgive us if we are not willing to forgive others who may have done something against us. Now is that something we would really want to pray for?
A psychological reason: Admittedly, at times it can be hard to forgive someone who has harmed us, especially when it seems to be deliberate, and perhaps could have been avoided. I don’t deny that—but we all, and I have to include myself, must learn that we gain nothing good or positive for ourselves by “hanging on to” and “stewing over” wrongs that have been done to us. By doing that, we reap more agony and misery for ourselves. Often the person who harmed us won’t even know that we are still stewing over the wrong they might have done us. And if they knew, they might even be glad.
A good principle: A good principle to follow is: Never allow what someone else does or says make you unhappy. That just gives that person more power over you. Pray for them—if you think they need prayer—but never let them live rent-free in your mind. When we die, God isn’t going to ask us about what someone else did; He will ask what we did.
Overcoming anger: I have been asked how can anger be conquered. Here’s something to ponder carefully. Ask yourself: “Whom does anger primarily affect?” The answer is: the person getting angry! For example, if anger causes you to slam a door or window, who will have to pay for a replacement? If anger causes someone to speak out of turn, causing him to be fired from his job, who is most harmed? Perhaps calling to mind these words of mine won’t eliminate your feeling of anger, but it might just save you the cost of a new door.
Forgiving but not forgetting: Sometimes people will say they forgive a person for what they have done, but they will never forget. In some respects this statement is not too psychologically sound, because we don’t really have control over what we are going to remember and what we are going to forget. (If we did, then we would all have gotten hundreds on our tests in schools, because we all wanted to remember the correct answers!) Obviously, most of us didn’t remember everything, because most of us did not get hundreds or A’s on all our tests. The same goes for what we forget. Whether you remember or forget isn’t that important. But if some past harm done to you continues to make you unhappy, that is important—and something should be done so it doesn’t continue to happen. Jesus gave a simple solution: He told us we have to be willing to forgive others if we want to be forgiven for any wrong we may have done in our lives.