Pastor’s Homily — 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Whatever happens to us, what is most important is how we respond.  Today’s readings guide us: the first reading teaches us about the dangers of anger and resentment.  The second reading teaches us to move from focusing on ourselves to focusing on Christ.  And the Gospel has a very important teaching on forgiveness.  There is no limit on how much we should forgive.

From the Book of Sirach: “Wrath and anger are hateful things but the sinner holds them tight.”  We need to create a space from our emotions and stop holding them tight.  There is a difference between reacting and responding. We’ve normalized reacting in our society today, and many people are aggressive and defensive because of that, but there’s no future in that and no depth to it.  There’s only a future in responding, from a place of attunement, relationship and community.

When we obsess about people who have done bad things to us, we increase our suffering because now these people are living in our heads, for free!  We see ourselves as the victim, one with a righteous grievance.  But here is a general principle of the spiritual life: if we are obsessed with something, even a good thing, it is an obstacle. But when we forgive, or detach, in a spiritual way, then we can always maintain our peace. Peace with God, peace inside, peace with others.

The late, great spiritual writer Henri Nouwen once wrote, “To forgive another person from the heart is an act of liberation.  We set that person free from the negative bonds that exist between us.. .but there is more. We also free ourselves from the burden of being the ‘offended one’”.

May the peace of the Lord be with you always!  May the forgiveness of the Lord be with you always!  May the liberation of the Lord be with you always!

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