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September 14, 2008 - Feast of the Exultation of the Cross

September 15th Holy Spirit Novena
Scripture selection is Day 8 Period II.

The Novena Rosary Mysteries  
for September 15th are Sorrowful.

 

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Feast of the Exultation of the Cross

 

Numbers 21: 4-9

They left Mount Hor by the road to the Sea of Suph, to skirt round Edom. On the way the people lost patience. They spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in the desert? For there is neither food nor water here; we are sick of this meagre diet.’ 

    At this, God sent fiery serpents among the people; their bite brought death to many in Israel. The people came and said to Moses, ‘We have sinned by speaking against Yahweh and against you. Intercede for us with Yahweh to save us from these serpents.’ Moses interceded for the people, and Yahweh replied, ‘Make a fiery serpent and raise it as a standard. Anyone who is bitten and looks at it will survive.’ Moses then made a serpent out of bronze and raised it as a standard, and anyone who was bitten by a serpent and looked at the bronze serpent survived.

  

Philippians  2: 6-11

Who, being in the form of God, 
did not count equality with God 
something to be grasped. 

But he emptied himself, 
taking the form of a slave, 
becoming as human beings are; 
and being in every way 
    like a human being, 
he was humbler yet, 
even to accepting death, 
death on a cross. 

And for this God raised him high, 
and gave him the name 
which is above all other names;

so that all beings 
in the heavens, on earth 
    and in the underworld, 
should bend the knee
at the name of Jesus 
and that every tongue should acknowledge 
Jesus Christ as Lord, 
to the glory of God the Father.

 

John 3: 13-17 

    No one has gone up to heaven 
    except the one 
        who came down from heaven, 
    the Son of man; 
    as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, 
    so must the Son of man be lifted up 
    so that everyone who believes 
        may have eternal life in him. 
    as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, 
    so must the Son of man be lifted up 
    so that everyone who believes 
        may have eternal life in him. 
    For this is how God loved the world: 
    he gave his only Son, 
    so that everyone who believes in him 
        may not perish 
    but may have eternal life. 
    For God sent his Son into the world 
    not to judge the world, 
    but so that through him 
        the world might be saved. 

    

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 11, 2005


(Sirach 27, 30 – 28,7) (Mt. 18, 21-35) I welcome the classes of ‘43, ‘44, ‘45, and ‘46. I am grateful my friend and cousin, Fr. Don McCarthy, who was in the class of ’43, could join us this evening to concelebrate the Mass. Today is Stewardship Sunday throughout the Archdiocese, and you probably wouldn’t feel at home here if I didn’t talk about money. Well, I do want to say something later on, but I’m not really ready to give a full-fledged Steward talk this weekend. We still have some things to talk about at Parish Pastoral Council before I can address that topic, so you’re all lucky this year, because you won’t hear a big sermon on money here and you’ll probably miss it at your own parish. In place of that, I do have a little story to make you feel at home. One of our parishioners told me this story the other day. She does not want to be identified. She told me one Sunday Msgr. Schwartz was giving a very long sermon. She was three years old at the time and with the usual innocence of childhood she asked her mother in a fairly audible voice: “Is he going to talk all day?” The people around her didn’t dare laugh, but a lot of them were smiling. She said he finished up his sermon rather quickly after that. I’ll try not to do the same to everyone today. As George Burns said: “The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending; and have the two as close together as possible.”

The theme of our readings is on forgiveness. Reading the paper each day shows us what unforgiveness does to nations, as they keep trying to get revenge on one another for some real or imagined act of cruelty. Some of the battles between different peoples have roots that go back hundreds of years. Many still live by the ancient principle of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” That rule was meant to keep a person from exacting more revenge than what was appropriate. In other words, if someone knocked out one of your teeth, you could only knock out one of theirs and no more! I couldn’t find the exact quote, but I think it was Martin Luther King who said, if we all insisted on an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, soon everyone in the world would be blind and toothless. In the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 6, 38), Jesus told us that’s no longer the rule we should live by. Today’s parable illustrates his position of forgiveness. We can’t hold on to hating and desire for revenge. We have to let go.

A couple of comments might help us get a feel for Jesus’ parable. Our translation is very weak and does not give the full impact of what was going on. It spoke of “a huge amount” that a servant owed his king and then of “a much smaller amount” that was owed. The original version (in the Greek) says the man owed his king ten thousand talents. In today’s money that would be about 2 or 3 billion dollars. In that society it was customary for people who couldn’t pay off their debts to be sold into slavery. The king’s generosity was beyond belief. The man whose debt was cancelled was owed (again looking at the original Greek) a hundred denarii. Translated into today’s dollars, that’s about $5000. It boggles our mind to think that anyone could be as selfish as the man in today’s gospel. He was given so much and, in spite of the unbelievable example of generosity shown by his king, he hadn’t learned how to be generous toward others.

Refusing to forgive is a form of anger, anger we will not let go of (or as the first reading describes it so poetically, anger that a person hugs tight). The man in the parable who refused to forgive his fellow servant may have been motivated by selfishness or pettiness or greed or by the refusal to let anyone take advantage of him. I think in most cases, however, when someone refuses to let go of their anger it is because of pride. We tell ourselves, when we are hurt by someone, we should not have been treated like that. No doubt we were treated badly, but we do more harm to ourselves than to anyone else when we keep that anger alive in us. It will only eat us up emotionally and maybe even physically. As a counselor I have seen what unforgiveness does to the individual who cannot let go of pain or hurt someone has caused them. Jesus’ admonition to forgive is good not only spiritually but psychologically too.

One of the people we often have difficulty forgiving is ourselves. We do something we are embarrassed about or ashamed of and we continue to beat ourselves up. I did it to myself for years and, as a result, I always felt a lot of depression. It took me a long time to realize my problem was pride (more accurately it was neurotic pride). Our pride tells us we should be better than we really are and when we fail, our pride comes down on us with a vengeance. Certainly we should keep working to improve ourselves and to learn from our mistakes (this is healthy pride), but we also need to accept the fact that we are not perfect. And beating ourselves up will not help us improve ourselves, it will only depress us. Often times people have complained to me in counseling or in confession “I don’t feel as if God has forgiven me for what I did.” I tell them, it’s because they haven’t forgiven themselves.

Obviously today’s parable is about forgiveness, but there is another important element to it and that is that we must not forget how generous God has been to us. We celebrate God’s goodness now as we continue on with our Mass thanking him for his mercy and love which is worth more than many billions of dollars. It’s worth is infinite, because God’s love is infinite. Amen.

  

 

 

   

     

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