33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (A)

Gospel

Matthew 25: 14-30

Jesus spoke this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of Heaven is like a man on his way abroad who summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to a third one; each in proportion to his ability. Then he set out.

‘The man who had received the five talents promptly went and traded with them and made five more. The man who had received two made two more in the same way. But the man who had received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

‘Now a long time after, the master of those servants came back and went through his accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents came forward bringing five more. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with five talents; here are five more that I have made.”

‘His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

‘Next the man with the two talents came forward. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with two talents; here are two more that I have made.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

‘Last came forward the man who had the one talent. “Sir,” said he “I had heard you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here it is; it was yours, you have it back.” But his master answered him, “You wicked and lazy servant! So you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered? Well then, you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have recovered my capital with interest. So now, take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the five talents. For to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away. As for this good-for-nothing servant, throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”’

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Reflection

We may say of someone – ‘She never made the most of herself’, or ‘He didn’t achieve his potential’. We talk of people burying their talents in the ground. That’s partly what Jesus is speaking about in today’s parable. He also refers to a greedy and incentive boss-man who only wants a good return on his money.

Inside everyone are many personal gifts: music, art, good listening, compassion, sport, intelligence, etc. We are given many gifts. Everyone in a family has different gifts and something to offer. The story is to encourage us to make the most of our gifts.

Sometimes we get caught up in the criticism of others and fail to see the goodness inside and the contribution they give to others. Some have more than others to offer, as in the parable.

Like the people in the parable who had been given money, they were expected to use these to make more. But the deeper meaning is not to squander our personal gifts and talents, but to make the most of them in loving service of others.

Adapted from Fr Donal Neary SJ who is editor of the Sacred Heart Messenger

Prayer

Father in heaven,
all good things come from you.
Help us to use the gifts you have given us,
always remembering to share what we have
with our brothers and sisters who are poor.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

 


32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time (A)

Gospel           

Matthew 25: 1-13

Jesus told this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven will be like this: Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were sensible: the foolish ones did take their lamps, but they brought no oil, whereas the sensible ones took flasks of oil as well as their lamps. The bridegroom was late, and they all grew drowsy and fell asleep. But at midnight there was a cry, “The bridegroom is here! Go out and meet him.” At this, all those bridesmaids woke up and trimmed their lamps, and the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, “Give us some of your oil: our lamps are going out.” But they replied, “There may not be enough for us and for you; you had better go to those who sell it and buy some for yourselves.” They had gone off to buy it when the bridegroom arrived. Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding hall and the door was closed. The other bridesmaids arrived later. “Lord, Lord,” they said “open the door for us.” But he replied, “I tell you solemnly, I do not know you.” So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour.’

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Reflection

The parable tells a story which could have happened at any time in a Palestinian village and which could still happen today.  Since a wedding was a great occasion, the whole village lined up at the sides of the road to wish God’s blessings on the bride being taken in procession by her groom to her new home.  The invited ones would join the procession, which started from the bride’s house and moved to the groom’s house, to take part in the week-long celebration of the marriage. Since the bridegroom might come to the bride’s house unexpectedly, the bridal party had to be ready at any time, with accompanying bridesmaids, carrying lighted torches and reserve oil in jars.  Five of these bridesmaids, who, having forgotten to bring an extra jar of oil had to run to the dealers to buy some more, missed the arrival of the groom’s party and lost their chance to take part in the celebration.  They lost not only the opportunity of witnessing the marriage ceremony, but also of participating in the week-long celebration that followed.

This parable has both a local and a universal meaning.  The local meaning is that the foolish bridesmaids represent the “Chosen People of God” who were waiting for the Messiah, but were shut out from the messianic banquet because they were unprepared. “The division between the wise and the foolish bridesmaids becomes the division between those in St Matthew’s church who keep the commandments of Christ… and those who hear his words but fail to do what he commands” (Fr Reginald Fuller).  The universal meaning is that the five foolish bridesmaids represent those who fail to prepare for the end of their lives.  What matters is not the occasional or the last-minute burst of spiritual fervour but habitual attention to responsibilities before God.  At the final judgment, there will be no depending upon the resources of others, no begging or borrowing of grace.  The parable implies that we should attend to duties of the present moment, preparing now rather than waiting until it is too late.

Fr Anthony Kadavil (St John the Baptist Catholic Church, Grand Bay, Al 36541)

Prayer for Remembrance Sunday

Let us pray for all who suffer as a result of conflict, and ask that God may give us peace:

— for the service men and women who have died in the violence of war, each one remembered by and known to God;

— for those who love them in death as in life, offering the distress of our grief and the sadness of our loss;

— for all members of the armed forces who are in danger this day, remembering family, friends and all who pray for their safe return;

— for civilian women, children and men whose lives are disfigured by war or terror, calling to mind in penitence the anger and hatreds of humanity;

— for peace-makers and peace-keepers, who seek to keep this world secure and free;

— for all who bear the burden and privilege of leadership, political, military and religious; asking for gifts of wisdom and resolve in the search for reconciliation and peace.


31st Sunday of Ordinary Time (A)

Scripture Reading

Matthew 23: 1-12

Addressing the people and his disciples Jesus said, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees occupy the chair of Moses. You must therefore do what they tell you and listen to what they say; but do not be guided by what they do: since they do not practise what they preach. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but will they lift a finger to move them? Not they! Everything they do is done to attract attention, like wearing broader phylacteries and longer tassels, like wanting to take the place of honour at banquets and the front seats in the synagogues, being greeted obsequiously in the market squares and having people call them Rabbi.

‘You, however, must not allow yourselves to be called Rabbi, since you have only one master, and you are all brothers. You must call no one on earth your father, since you have only one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor must you allow yourselves to be called teachers, for you have only one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will be exalted.’

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Reflection

‘Practise what you preach’. ‘Walk it as you talk it’. These are sayings we use to highlight that words and actions in our Christian life should harmonise.

‘Love is shown in deeds, not words’ is the ending of the Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises.

This is the criticism of Jesus about some of the Pharisees: they preached intolerable burdens of the law, and did not observe it themselves, nor help anyone to do so.

We find out how to be a follower of Jesus by watching him in the Gospel, by hearing his word, and by living a life of love and compassion as best we can. We learn how to relate to others by the way Jesus does this himself.

Every religion can get lost in the visible signs of it. Titles in parish or a diocese can take over from the service requested from us. Shows of piety can lead to the self rather than to God. Everything in our religion should come from the life of Jesus and return to him. ‘You have one teacher, the Christ’.

Lord, teach me your ways, your truth and guide me into your life.

Fr Donal Neary SJ is editor of the Sacred Heart Messenger

Prayer

Lord,
you warned us against doing good works to earn human praise.
May we do the works of the Gospel
with humility of heart and pure intention.
Through Christ our Lord.Amen.

 


30th Sunday of Ordinary Time (A)

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Scripture Reading

Matthew 22: 34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees they got together and, to disconcert him, one of them put a question, ‘Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?’ Jesus said, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also.’

Reflection
In the time of the desert monks, there was an abbot by the name of Moses who had a great reputation for holiness. Easter was approaching, so the monks met and decided to fast the entire length of Holy Week. Having come to this decision, each monk went off to his cellto fast and pray.

However, about the middle of the week, two wandering monks came to visit the cell of Abbot Moses. Seeing that they were starving, he cooked a little vegetable stew for them. To make them feel at ease he took a little of it himself. Meanwhile the other monks had seen the smoke rising from the abbot’s cell. It could mean only one thing – he had lit a fire to cook some food. In other words, he had broken the solemn fast. They were shocked, and in the eyes of many of them, he fell from his pinnacle of sanctity.

In a body they went over to confront him. Seeing judgement in their eyes, he asked, “What crime have I committed that makes you look at me like this?” “You’ve broken the solemn fast,” they answered. “So I have,” he replied. “I have broken the commandment of men, but in sharing my food with these brothers of ours, I have kept the commandment of God, that we should love one another.” On hearing this, the monks grew silent, and went away humbled and wiser.

(From Fr Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies’)

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Prayer

Your love, O God, is boundless.
We who were strangers have been made your children.
We who were defenceless have been brought into your household.
Keep us mindful of your deeds of mercy,
that we may love you with our whole heart
and love our neighbour as ourselves.
Through Christ our Lord.


29th Sunday of Ordinary Time (A)

Scripture Reading          

Matthew 22: 15-21

The Pharisees went away to work out between them how to trap Jesus in what he said. And they sent their disciples to him, together with the Herodians, to say, ‘Master, we know that you are an honest man and teach the way of God in an honest way, and that you are not afraid of anyone, because a man’s rank means nothing to you. Tell us your opinion, then. Is it permissible to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’ But Jesus was aware of their malice and replied, ‘You hypocrites! Why do you set this trap for me? Let me see the money you pay the tax with.’ They handed him a denarius, and he said, ‘Whose head is this? Whose name?’ ‘Caesar’s’ they replied. He then said to them, ‘Very well, give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and to God what belongs to God.’

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Reflection

Behind Jesus’ back, his enemies prepared a dangerous trap for him. The trap is well thought out: “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” If he answers negatively, they will be able to accuse him of rebellion against Rome. If he justifies the payment of tribute, he will end up discredited by those poor farmers who are oppressed by those taxes, those he loves and defends with his whole might. Jesus’ answer has been summarised throughout the centuries in these terms: “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Few of Jesus’ words have been cited as much as these. But they are often distorted and manipulated by interests very far from those of the speaker himself, the great defender of the poor.

Jesus isn’t thinking of God and of the Roman Caesar as two powers that can demand, each in their respective spheres, dominance over their subjects. Like any faithful Jew, Jesus knows that to God alone belongs the earth and all that it contains, the world and all its inhabitants (Ps. 24). What could belong to Caesar that doesn’t come from God? Aren’t all the subjects of the empire also sons and daughters of God?

Jesus doesn’t discuss the different positions held by various groups in that society about taxes paid to Rome and their significance: if they are carrying the money of the taxing-master in their pockets, then they should fulfil those obligations. Instead he reminds them of something that no one has asked him about: “Give to God what belongs to God.” That’s to say, don’t give to Caesar what belongs only to God: the life of God’s sons and daughters. As he has repeated over and over to his followers: the poor are God’s special ones, God’s Reign belongs to them. No one should abuse them.

We must not sacrifice people’s life, dignity or happiness to any power. And surely today no power sacrifices more lives and causes more suffering, hunger and destruction than that tyranny of a faceless economy without a truly human purpose that, according to Pope Francis, the powerful of the earth have succeeded in imposing. We can’t remain passive and indifferent to this, stifling the voice of our consciences even while practicing the rituals of religion.

Fr José Antonio Pagola

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Prayer

Let us pray for the many refugees driven from Myanmar, more than half of whom are children, worn down and traumatised. May the nations of the world wake up to the tragedy unfolding before them, and reach out to the thousands who are terrified, hungry and sick.
Lord, in your mercy.                R. Hear our prayer.

For missionaries working all over the world. May our prayers and offerings help to protect and sustain them and the people they serve, so that all may come to know the Good News of Jesus.
Lord, in your mercy.                R. Hear our prayer.

For ourselves and all who follow Jesus. May the Holy Spirit help us to show our faith in action, work for love and persevere through hope.
Lord, in your mercy.                R. Hear our prayer.


28th Sunday of Ordinary Time (A)

Scripture Reading

Matthew 22: 1-14

Jesus began to speak to the chief priests and elders of the people in parables: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a feast for his son’s wedding. He sent his servants to call those who had been invited, but they would not come. Next he sent some more servants. “Tell those who have been invited” he said “that I have my banquet all prepared, my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, everything is ready. Come to the wedding.” But they were not interested: one went off to his farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his servants, maltreated them and killed them. The king was furious. He despatched his troops, destroyed those murderers and burnt their town. Then he said to his servants, “The wedding is ready; but as those who were invited proved to be unworthy, go to the crossroads in the town and invite everyone you can find to the wedding.” So these servants went out on to the roads and collected together everyone they could find, bad and good alike; and the wedding hall was filled with guests. When the king came in to look at the guests he noticed one man who was not wearing a wedding garment, and said to him, “How did you get in here, my friend, without a wedding garment?” And the man was silent. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot and throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen.’

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Reflection

The parables say something to us on many levels. They tell us something about ourselves and about God; they also reflect realities of the world around us and the culture we live in. In today’s parable, we find out something about the inclusiveness of God’s invitation to live with him always, now and into eternity.

People are invited to the banquet of God; some come, some do not. The story goes further that everyone at the crossroads was invited. In the culture of the time, the crossroads was where people of all backgrounds gathered. The invitation to those at the crossroads is the invitation to all God’s people.

It is also the invitation to each of us at crossroads in our own life. Whenever we are in crisis, in trouble, stuck at a crossroads to make a decision, God is nearby, part of our life’s process, offering the good things of a banquet.

As we look around in our lives, we can realise that all of us are invited. The danger of all religion is to narrow it down to ‘people of our own faith’. The people of God is the whole human race; the call is to sit down with God and be prepared  to meet anyone with him.

Fr Donal Neary SJ is editor of the Sacred Heart Messenger

Prayer

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green are the pastures
where he gives me repose.
Near restful waters he leads me,
to revive my drooping spirit.

He guides me along the right path;
he is true to his name.
If I should walk in the valley of darkness
no evil would I fear.
You are there with your crook and your staff;
with these you give me comfort.

You have prepared a banquet for me
in the sight of my foes.
My head you have anointed with oil;
my cup is overflowing.

Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me
all the days of my life.
In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell
for ever and ever.

Psalm 22 (23)


27th Sunday of Ordinary Time (A)

Scripture Reading     (Matthew 21: 33-43)

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people, ‘Listen to another parable. There was a man, a landowner, who planted a vineyard; he fenced it round, dug a winepress in it and built a tower; then he leased it to tenants and went abroad. When vintage time drew near he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his servants, thrashed one, killed another and stoned a third. Next he sent some more servants, this time a larger number, and they dealt with them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them. “They will respect my son” he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, “This is the heir. Come on, let us kill him and take over his inheritance.” So they seized him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They answered, ‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will deliver the produce to him when the season arrives.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:

It was the stone rejected by the builders
that became the keystone.
This was the Lord’s doing
and it is wonderful to see?

‘I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.’

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Reflection

A common image for Jesus is the garden or the vineyard, with comments on wasteland and fruitful land. In this story he looks at stones and points out that a rejected stone, if looked at again, could become the cornerstone of a building. He is referring to prophets who were rejected, and to himself. He would be through his weakness and death, the essential stone of the new temple, the energy through death of the new community.

We live in a throwaway culture. Much of what could be used again is dumped to destroy the earth and the sea. We waste a lot of the daily bread of the people. Jesus asks us always to look again, to see the value of what we may throw aside, especially in our treatment of each other.

Everyone has a value in the eyes of God. Pope Francis noted: ‘When adolescents feel unloved, they may turn to violence, hatred or delinquent behaviour. There is no such thing as bad children or evil adolescents, but there are unhappy people’ (June 2107). He is asserting that with love and a community of acceptance, everyone has a place and has something to offer, like every stone is valuable to a new building, especially some we may first throw away.

I thank you, Lord, for the wonder of my being.

Fr Donal Neary SJ  (Editor of the Sacred Heart Messenger)

Prayer 

May the peace of God,
which surpasses all understanding,
keep your hearts and minds
in the knowledge and love of God
and of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Amen.

(cf. Philippians 4:7)

UPDATE
See Gallery (under ‘Information’) for pictures from the Blessing of Animals


26th Sunday of Ordinary Time (A)

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Scripture Reading    (Matthew 21: 28-32)

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people, ‘What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He went and said to the first, “My boy, you go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not go”, but afterwards thought better of it and went. The man then went and said the same thing to the second who answered, “Certainly, sir”, but did not go. Which of the two did the father’s will?’ ‘The first’ they said. Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, tax collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you, a pattern of true righteousness, but you did not believe him, and yet the tax collectors and prostitutes did. Even after seeing that, you refused to think better of it and believe in him.’

Reflection – Actions speak louder than words

A manager of a well-known firm was told by his officials that one of his officials was swindling money. The culprit was called by the manager and given a promotion to be a supervisor. He was surprised, but continued with his old habit of swindling money. When the manger was informed, he promoted him to a yet higher level as one of the officers. But the man did not change. Finally, he was appointed as the personal secretary of the manager. In his dealings with the manager, he discovered that the manager was aware of this man’s greed and yet had not punished him but given more and more opportunities to improve. He was embarrassed and changed his ways. Within a year, he had become popular among his co-workers for his sincerity and transparency. It was little wonder that after the retirement of the manager, he was chosen to replace the manager.
Robert D’Souza in ‘The Sunday Liturgy’

Prayer

Lord, make me know your ways.
Lord, teach me your paths.
Make me walk in your truth, and teach me:
for you are God my saviour.
(Psalm 24)


25th Sunday of the Year (A)

Scripture Reading     (Matthew 20: 1-16)

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner going out at daybreak to hire workers for his vineyard. He made an agreement with the workers for one denarius a day, and sent them to his vineyard. Going out at about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place and said to them, “You go to my vineyard too and I will give you a fair wage.” So they went. At about the sixth hour and again at about the ninth hour, he went out and did the same. Then at about the eleventh hour he went out and found more men standing round, and he said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?” “Because no one has hired us” they answered. He said to them, “You go to my vineyard too”.

In the evening, the owner of the vineyard sad to his bailiff, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with the last arrivals and ending with the first.” So those who were hired at about the eleventh hour came forward and received one denarius each. When the first came, they expected to get more, but they too received one denarius each. They took it, but grumbled at the landowner. “The men who came last” they said “have done only one hour, and you have treated them the same as us, though we have done a heavy day’s work in all the heat.” He answered one of them and said, “My friend, I am not being unjust to you; did we not agree on one denarius? Take your earnings and go. I choose to pay the last-comer as much as I pay you. Have I no right to do what I like with my own? Why be envious because I am generous?” Thus the last will be first, and the first, last.’

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Reflection

Can we allow God to be so good to everyone?  The parable today is about the generosity of God, not an encouragement to idleness nor a way out of finding employment for our people, each of whom has the right to work.  It is Jesus using an unusual example from life to highlight the unconditional love of God, stressing as he so often did, that God’s love depends on God, not on our good works.

Is Jesus pointing the way to the first truth of our faith:  that God is good in love to all?  From believing that in the heart, we are empowered to love others like him, or try to.

It is only human to object to this approach. We very often repay love with love, and withdraw love when it is not given.

Pope Francis writes: “There are two aspects of love. First, love is more about giving than receiving. Second, love is more about deeds than words. Love is always given or transmitted to another, he said, and “love always gives life, fosters growth” (Feast of the Sacred Heart 2016).

The joy of God is in giving love; this is a prime meaning of the parable. He calls on us to enjoy his giving of love to everyone, even the ones we do not think deserve it.

Teach me, Lord to be generous in love, as you are to me and to all.

Fr Donal Neary SJ  (Sacred Heart Messenger)
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Prayer

For all those who are sick or suffering in mind, body or spirit.

For the many people killed in the earthquake in Mexico this week, and the thousands who have been left homeless.

†For all those who have been impacted by Hurricane Maria and those involved in the rescue effort.

†For the 410,000 people now estimated to have fled to Bangladesh, escaping violence in Rakhine State in neighbouring Myanmar.

†For fairer trade rules so that all may receive a just wage for the work of their hands.

 

 


24th Sunday of the Year (A)

Scripture Reading

Peter went up to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times.

‘And so the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who decided to settle his accounts with his servants. When the reckoning began, they brought him a man who owed ten thousand talents; but he had no means of paying, so his master gave orders that he should be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, to meet the debt. At this, the servant threw himself down at his master’s feet. “Give me time,” he said, “and I will pay the whole sum.” And the servant’s master felt so sorry for him that he let him go and cancelled the debt. Now as this servant went out, he happened to meet a fellow servant who owed him one hundred denarii; and he seized him by the throat and began to throttle him. “Pay what you owe me,” he said. His fellow servant fell at his feet and implored him, saying. “Give me time and I will pay you.” But the other would not agree; on the contrary, he had him thrown into prison till he should pay the debt. His fellow servants were deeply distressed when they saw what had happened, and they went to their master and reported the whole affair to him. Then the master sent for him. “You wicked servant,” he said, “I cancelled all that debt of yours when you appealed to me. Were you not bound, then, to have pity on your fellow servant just as I had pity on you?” And in his anger the master handed him over to the torturers till he should pay all his debt. And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart.’   (Matthew 18: 21-35)

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Reflection

Jesus asks us to believe that forgiveness is the door which leads to reconciliation. In telling us to forgive our brothers and sisters unreservedly, he is asking us to do something utterly radical, but he also gives us the grace to do it. What appears, from a human perspective, to be impossible, impractical and even at times repugnant, he makes possible and fruitful through the infinite power of his cross. The cross of Christ reveals the power of God to bridge every division, to heal every wound, and to re-establish the original bonds of brotherly love.

From a Homily of Pope Francis, 18 August 2014

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Prayer

Undaunted you seek the lost, O God,
exultant you bring home the found.
Touch our hearts with grateful wonder
at the tenderness of your forbearing love.
Grant us delight in the mercy that has found us
and bring all to rejoice at the feast of forgiveness.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.

(c) 1998 International Committee on English in the Liturgy