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  Word To Life

Sunday Scripture Readings, Sept. 11, 2011

By Sharon K. Perkins
Catholic News Service

September 11, Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Cycle A Readings:

1) Sirach 27:30 to 28:7

Psalm 103:1-4, 9-12

2) Romans 14:7-9

Gospel: Matthew 18:21-35

Every Tuesday morning at our parish church, the daily Mass is immediately followed by prayers and anointing for healing. For the most part, the handful of people who stay afterward for prayer are those who are facing surgery or who struggle with chronic illness. They leave the church much comforted and strengthened, and in many cases they are blessed with physical healing. Both the hurts and the healings are visible and public.

Then there are the weekend Masses when the church is full four times over and almost every pew is a silent witness to the invisible pain of souls scarred by strife and resentment, often among the very family members sharing the pew with one another. Even as one's lips pray for healing through the familiar words of the Lord's Prayer -- "forgive us our sins as we forgive those who trespass against us" -- the heart, convinced of the rightness of one's cause, holds tightly to anger as both weapon and shield.

Today's readings, from Sirach to the psalm to the Gospel, address this misguided and sinful human tendency to preserve one's self through anger, unforgiveness and the withholding of love from another. St. Paul admonishes all of us who persist in such folly that "none of us lives for oneself ... we live for the Lord."

It is the Lord himself who has consistently modeled for us the power of compassionate forgiveness, pardoning all our iniquities and healing all our ills. And we -- as Jesus illustrates by way of a parable -- are to do the same.

The English poet William Blake once wrote, "It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend." How true that is! Enemies can be held at arms' length; friends and family have the power to hurt us repeatedly and when we are the most vulnerable ("seventy times seven times" is not beyond the realm of possibility!). But Christ's death and resurrection for us make possible the death to self that forgiveness requires, so that we, too, can be raised up, strengthened and healed.


Is there someone in your life against whom you harbor anger or resentment? How can you, through prayer and through practice, bring the forgiving love of God into that situation so that both of you can be healed?


"Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord?" (Sirach 28:3)


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