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From The Pastor's Notepad

September 13, 2020

In today’s gospel Peter asks Jesus how many times a person must forgive. He offers what would seem an absurdly generous number – up to seven times? After all, once: OK, but don’t do it again. Twice: OK, everybody deserves a second chance. Three, not OK, this is becoming a bad habit. Four, or more, no more, we’re done. Now that’s a bit shy of seven but after all, enough is enough. Despite what Peter might have expected, Jesus doesn’t commend him for generosity.

No, says Jesus. Not seven, but seventy-seven! In other words, no limit. Stop keeping track when forgiving others. This is hard. When hurt we tend to shut down or lash out. But when we stop forgiving others we not only isolate ourselves from the other but from God. “Forgive us our trespasses AS we forgive those who have trespassed against us.”

God doesn’t set a limit on his forgiveness and mercy for us. We are not to do so for others.

Like the servant in Jesus’s gospel parable today, sometimes we owe a debt, sometimes others owe a debt to us. Sometimes we have harmed others and need their forgiveness; sometimes they have harmed us and they need our forgiveness.

What if they don’t ask for forgiveness, or even acknowledge their need to do so? Not our problem. We are invited to stop the cycle of pain and unforgiveness with mercy, regardless. This is for our peace, and for theirs when and if they are ready to receive it.

However, the parable today also makes clear that though the offended person is to be God-like in forgiveness, this does not excuse or condone bullying or abuse or oppressive relations of any kind.

In the gospel parable the first servant who receives undeserved, unreserved forgiveness and mercy from the king is called to account for his unforgiving cruelty to his fellow servant, by other servants and the king.

Christians are called to hold accountable those who have sinfully hurt others; they are called to protect the weak and vulnerable, and called to seek reconciliation as a community. We do this not out of spite or self-righteousness. We do it both humbly and firmly. We do this out of love for, and for the sake of, all parties involved.

We are to break the cycle of pain and unforgiveness with both justice and mercy.

Fr. Don, Pastor

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Past columns from the Pastor's Notepad

September 6, 2020

In the first reading the prophet, Ezekiel, sets the tone.

We are responsible for one another.

We are responsible for another in different ways.

Parents have a special responsibility for each other and their children.

Friends have a responsibility for the well-being of their friends.

Church leaders and Church members have a responsibility for the Body of Christ, the Church, their family of faith.

We all have a responsibility to promote justice and mercy in our culture and our country.

These apply to each of us in various ways and degrees.

But says Ezekiel, if the wicked/wayward are not warned, you will be held responsible.

The bad acts of one person has consequences, not just for him or herself, but for all of us.

Every sin reduces the amount of love in the world.

We are called to more than co-existence with our sinful world. Avoiding sin personally is not enough.

We need to peak the truth honestly to those closest to us and do it as Jesus told us: discreetly and respectfully, with the god of the other as the goal. More generally, we are to speak and live our faith unembarrassingly and forthrightly and honestly. We are to work for good and stand against evil, in the spirit and power of Jesus.

We are to seek ways to make life better, sweeter, more joyful for our neighbor, family, fellow workers, students, Church family.

Love your neighbor as yourself. That includes tough and uncomfortable love. But here, as always, the key word is love.

That is our responsibility.

Fr. Don, Pastor

August 30, 2020

We hear in the readings about the mystery of suffering.

Who wants to suffer? Suffering is not attractive.

Jesus is headed to Jerusalem, to suffer, horribly, until dead.

He will defeat evil, by absorbing everything evil can throw at him. No! says Peter. God forbid that you should suffer!

Peter, newly renamed Rock, is called a hindrance, literally in Greek, a stumbling stone kind of rock. Jesus even calls him Satan, the one who tries desperately to turn Jesus away from his mission to save the world.

Jesus tells Peter, and his Apostles, and all of us, simply to follow.

To follow in his footsteps, especially when the path gets difficult and uncertain, and especially when the footsteps get bloody. Nevertheless, “take up your cross and follow me!”

Take up your cross. Don’t drag it. Place it squarely on your shoulders. Then you can carry it with the strength and peace of Christ.

Transform suffering into grace.

Who are we willing to suffer for? Spouse? Family? Country?

What and who are more valuable to me than my health, comfort, pleasure, financial security, lifestyle?

What are you willing to trade for your eternal life?

How much do we really value Christ’s love and eternal life?

Peter balked. Most of the Apostles ran. The crowds following him disappeared.

Jesus suffered and died for them anyway. And Peter and the Apostles eventually chose to suffer and die for him, following the bloody footsteps wherever they led.

Because they loved him, even more than their own life.

In our lives, follow him, one (suffering) step at a time.

Fr. Don, Pastor

August 23, 2020

In times of uncertainty and division, we need to have someplace, somewhere, someone to whom we can go. With a multitude of confusing, contradictory, competing ideas and voices, we need to know what is sure, solid, and true.

Jesus gave us that in the Church. He was concretely building his Church, even in his lifetime, around the 12 apostles.

In the Gospel today we hear more specifically, that he chose a head of this Church-in-process, whom he (re)named Rock (Peter, in Greek), the foundation stone to whom is given the keys to the house, the kingdom. This head is given even the heavenly authority to bind and loose, an office, a position that can and will be passed on to others.

Simon (Peter) is the only one who is given a new name because he is the one to whom God the Father revealed Jesus as “the Son of the living God”. Peter is the only one set apart in this way.

Jesus never revokes Peter’s keys to the kingdom, even after Peter denies him 3 times.

He is not a substitute for Christ, but he is not a messenger boy either. He is called to a particular position of leadership, with the power of Christ to exercise this irrevocable call.

Peter is a good leader because he knows his weakness and who to turn to. He knows Christ’s forgiveness and so how to forgive others.

The Church is the assembly of the faithful, the family of God, the Body of Christ, then and now. It’s not a later invention or a hit and miss, rise and fall, appear and disappear phenomenon. It is not just buildings. Rather, it is a people visible and enduring, as Christ intended, under the leadership he gave.

Delve into your Catholic faith, with prayer and study. Invite others by your words and example to do the same. Explore the beauty of the Catholic Church. These days are especially a good time to reaffirm good prayer habits and grow in our hunger for the Eucharist.

Countries, philosophies, lifestyles come and go. Jesus Christ, present in his Church, with Peter as head, fueled by the Holy Spirit, is the firm ground on which we stand, in these times and in every time.

Fr. Don, Pastor