FORGIVENESS! Pass it On….
Jesus instructs us in today’s powerful Gospel to go against what many times our human
nature tells us to do; in turning the other cheek, praying for and forgiving our enemies, and
doing good to those who persecute us, it seems He is calling us to perform near-Herculean
tasks. Rounding out today’s Gospel, Jesus instructs us to be perfect, just as our Heavenly
Father is perfect.
Does this sound like a very tall order? Yes – but nonetheless, we Christians are called to
it. This is essentially what makes us Christian – this radical departure from what our fallen
human nature tells us to do when others hurt us; this embrace of what is divine (for as
eighteenth-century poet Alexander Pope famously wrote, “To err is human, to forgive, divine.”)
In his thinking, which mirrors Christian thinking, we approach divinity when we show mercy
and forgiveness as God does.
Jesus stopped the cycle of violence and hatred thrown at Him by the people who put Him on
the Cross, by calling on the Father to forgive them. St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, does
the same as he is being stoned to death.
Each of us has one person in their life, or over the course of their life, that has hurt us. This
person may have robbed us of precious time with another person, may have caused us undue
stress or aggravation, or may have caused a wedge to exist between us and another person.
This Gospel calls us to recall that person, and the hurt they have caused us. It calls us to
forgive that person, do good and pray for them, and hope for the best for them.
As countless as there are ways that we humans can be hurt by others, there are infinite
possibilities to forgive. We need only call on Jesus to help us to will ourselves to be perfect,
just as our Heavenly Father is perfect.
We can simply call on Jesus for the Divine Assistance to embrace the divine nature He so
gloriously shares with us, when we freely do as He invites us to do.
True, everlasting peace resides here.
Fr. Michael Panicali
Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
It can be argued that in Italy the feast day of the Epiphany is celebrated with as much piety as the day of
ChristmOur celebration of the Lord’s Baptism last weekend officially brought to an end the liturgical
season of Christmas. This weekend we return to what the Church somewhat uninspiredly calls
Ordinary Time. Ordinary Time simply means that it is not one of the other specially designated
seasons of the liturgical year, those being Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter. Ordinary Time makes
up about two thirds of the Church year, and despite a name which may lead you to believe it is routine,
boring, humdrum, etc., Ordinary Time is anything but. In fact, Ordinary Time can be quite
extraordinary, if you ask me.
I say this perhaps because in a certain way I almost feel like Advent and Christmas passed me by
this year. I had my back surgery on October 22nd leaving almost five more weeks of Ordinary Time
before Advent would begin. But due to a couple of setbacks and complications from the surgery, my
recovery was longer and much more difficult than I ever would have anticipated. But thanks be to
God, and to the assistance and prayers of my family, friends, parish staff (especially Father Mike and
Jackie), and all of you, I am doing much better and am finally able to get back to something closer to
my ordinary routine, and I LOVE IT!
It is in our ordinary, everyday lives that we come to encounter Christ, most often through our
relationships and interactions with one another. As Jesus says in the twenty-fifth chapter of St.
Matthew’s Gospel, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” In our
Gospel this weekend, John the Baptist sees Jesus coming towards him and says, “Behold, the Lamb of
God, who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me
who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’ I did not know him, but the reason I came
baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel. [...] Now I have seen and testified
that he is the Son of God.”
God comes to meet us where we are, as we are. In our encounter with our God who is love we are
transformed. Too often we get it backwards. We feel we must be holy in order for God to love us. And
because of this mistaken notion, many people shy away from or try to avoid entirely this encounter
with Jesus Christ. But Christ comes to us precisely in our brokenness, our woundedness, and even in
our sinfulness. It is his grace and forgiveness that comforts us and heals us and transforms us into that
son and daughter of His that He created us to be. And it is in doing His will, in placing our trust in
Him, that we find true happiness.
The verses of our Responsorial Psalm this weekend summarize this well: “I have waited, waited for
the LORD, and he stooped toward me and heard my cry. And he put a new song into my mouth, a
hymn to our God. Sacrifice or offering you wished not, but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Holocausts or sin-offerings you sought not; then said I, ‘Behold I come.’ In the written scroll it is
prescribed for me, to do your will, O my God, is my delight, and your law is within my heart!” And in
between we respond, “Here am I Lord, I come to do your will.”
Thanks again to all of you for helping me to encounter Jesus anew in my illness and recuperation.
Let’s all be open to an extraordinary encounter with the God who loves us in the ordinary events
of our day. – Fr. Bob