Below is my homily for the Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time. It was given to Ss. Cosmas & Damian Parish in Punxsutawney, PA on Saturday, September 16, 2017, at the 4:30 PM parish mass.
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew
Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began the accounting,
a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
Since he had no way of paying it back,
his master ordered him to be sold,
along with his wife, his children, and all his property,
in payment of the debt.
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’
Moved with compassion the master of that servant
let him go and forgave him the loan.
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants
who owed him a much smaller amount.
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding,
‘Pay back what you owe.’
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
But he refused.
Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison
until he paid back the debt.
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened,
they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master
and reported the whole affair.
His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?’
Then in anger, his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”
The Gospel of the Lord
Amazon has announced recently that, with their purchase of Whole Foods, the customer would have the option to purchase online goods and be able to pick them up in store within a 2-6 hour wait period. The way that this would work is that the customer could order whatever they want online, the order would be processed, and the customer could go to the nearest Whole Foods store to an “Amazon Locker” where they could punch in a code and pickup whatever they ordered, without ever interacting with another human being.
Now, for us introverts, this sounds like an excellent idea on the drawing board. In reality, and I speak for myself, an introvert, this is a scary concept.
In philosophy, we speak of a slippery slope. I see this situation that Amazon presents to be a slippery slope. I see this proposed idea by Amazon to just be the beginning of something that divorces humanity from human beings.
What exactly do I mean? How can this remove humanity from humans?
I think Paul explains this very well in today’s second reading. In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul says “None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself.”
In secular culture, we can see this in John Donne’s poem “No man is an island.”
We see from Donne’s poem that we do not live alone; we do not live life by ourselves. We live in community, we live together, working together, praying together.
As much as I like this idea from Amazon, it is not a good idea. It is a slippery slope leading to something even worse, a world where man divorces himself from his humanity.
The other issue it presents us is that we can always get what we want, right away, without any waiting.
I hate to break it to anyone here that didn’t know, but life requires work. Life is not always “easy”. Life is exhausting, is stressful, requires attention, requires devotion. Life takes work. And this life that takes work, it takes patience and love.
Jesus Christ tells us in today’s gospel that we are to forgive others. Notice that he tells us to forgive, not to forget. He tells us that if we do not forgive, we will receive the same judgment that we dealt out.
Yet just because God did not say that we are to forget about how we have been hurt or wronged does not mean that we hold over someone else’s head how they hurt us or offended us or wronged us. That’s not true forgiving. Forgiving means recognizing the hurt inside of us, the brokenness inside of us, and recognizing that same brokenness inside of the other person.
It does not mean that we forget about how the other hurt us, but rather allowing God to come into an area of our life that needs attention. We do not forget in the sense that we must learn from the situation so as to not put ourselves in that place again where we could get hurt again, but we do not hold a grudge. What exactly does holding a grudge do? If someone hurt us and we hold a grudge, it hurts us and plays into the other person’s action. I’m not saying that you cannot feel hurt, but what I am saying is we do not seek out vengeance.
We live in community. We live amongst others. We live with other people, other children of God, who hold differing opinions than us. That does not give us the right to attack one another. We as a people of God, as brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, as a family, have an opportunity to show God’s love and mercy in all that we do. We have an opportunity to grow in grace and mercy every day. We have an opportunity to be a conduit of love for all we meet, even those we do not like. We must forgive. It is not an easy task, but not taking ownership of someone else’s anger or hatred allows us to grow deeper in knowledge of ourselves, growing into the person that God has made us to be.
May we come to know the great love, mercy, and patience of God in each and every day of our life so that we can work toward true peace and harmony amongst all the people of the world. Amen.
Fr. Andy Boyd is a Roman Catholic priest of the Diocese of Erie, PA. Currently, Father Andy is assigned to Saint George Parish in Erie, PA.
Father Andy entered seminary after high school, graduating from Gannon University and Saint Mark Seminary in 2014. In the fall of 2014, Father Andy began his Major Seminary Studies at Saint Vincent Seminary in Latrobe PA. Father Andy graduated from Saint Vincent Seminary with his Masters of Divinity in May 2018, and was ordained a priest in June 2018.
An avowed “Catholic Geek,” Fr. Andy spends his free time dabbling in media creation and network and server management.
Listen to Father Andy in his podcast Encounter Mercy.