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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Forgive us our trespasses -- Please!

By Susan Fox

“I will rise and go to my father.” (The Prodigal Son, Lk 15:18)

Last week, I watched a rerun of the PBS series Inspector Morse. I wasn’t paying too close attention until Morse was standing at the altar of an Anglican Church begging a female character to forgive someone.

She responded, “I cannot forgive him. I want to be forgiven, but I cannot forgive him.”

My ears perked up. It was a sort of an anti-Our Father for in the prayer Jesus taught us, now called the “Our Father,” we pray “Forgive us our trespasses (sins) as we forgive those who trespass (sin) against us.”

I wonder how many times we recite that prayer without realizing the implications. We really can’t expect God to forgive us our sins if we are not willing to forgive our brother his sins.

And yet very often that is exactly what we expect.

Today’s Gospel readings were all about forgiveness, repentance and intercession.

One thing you learn in the Book of Revelation is that Satan and his evil spirits are accusers.

“Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have salvation and power come, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed. For the accuser of our brothers is cast out, who accuses them before our God day and night.” (Rev. 12:10)

Judging and accusing is a satanic activity. Satan literally spends his time before the throne of God trying to make God hate us because of our sins. He might as well save his breath because while we were still in our sins and unrepentant, God so loved the world, He sent His Only Son to die for us!

In today’s reading, Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14, Moses shows us the role of good Christians -- the saints. Our role is to intercede or plead for sinners. The Israelites have just made the golden calf and are worshiping it. God seems to want to destroy them. He asks Moses’ permission to go ahead and make a great nation of Moses and his children, but eliminate the rest of the Israelites.

"I see how stiff-necked this people is,” continued the LORD to Moses. Let me alone, then, that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them. Then I will make of you a great nation.

But Moses pleads instead for God’s mercy on the Israelites, reminding Him of his promises to their fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Israel to make of them a great nation. Saints try to think like God and that means when they are persecuted, they pray for their oppressors.

So the LORD relented in the punishment he had threatened to inflict on his people.

That is always the role of the saints-- to pray for others, to pray for the dead, to pray for sinners, to pray for our enemies and friends! To pray, pray, pray with our hearts. The whole purpose of the Divine Mercy Chaplet is to pray for God’s mercy on the world – all peoples whether good, bad or indifferent. It doesn’t matter. When St. Faustina was given the chaplet to pray, she saw a terrible angel about to wreck destruction on the world. She prayed and prayed to God to spare the world, but her words accomplished nothing until she was given the words of the Divine Mercy Chaplet: “Eternal Father I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world!”

Suddenly, with those words the angel of destruction was turned back and unable to complete his mission. Why? Because Faustina was uniting her intentions to the intentions of the Holy Mass -- the intentions of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ on Mt. Calvary. Christ’s sacrifice on the altar of Calvary has infinite everlasting value!

At today’s Mass, we also read the story of the Prodigal Son, (Lk 15:1-32). The priest who gave the sermon on this Gospel reading urged us to be like the father in the story – to be waiting and watching for the repentant son and go out to meet him and welcome him. The father is the figure for God the Father Who so loved us He gave His only Son. He is the figure for the Christian warrior intercessor, who putting on the mind of Christ, prays for his enemies.

But the story of the Prodigal Son also gives us a clue as to how we can forgive our enemies. For it is not an easy thing to do especially when you are hurt. Put yourself in the place of the younger son. Having taken his inheritance and squandered it, he wakes up and remembers that the lowliest servant in his father’s house has more to eat than he does.

Coming to his senses, he says to himself: I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers." So he got up and went back to his father.

While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him and was moved to compassion. He embraced him and kissed him, killed the fatted calf and put a ring on his finger. Do you realize that God the Father welcomes you the same way every time you turn to him?

Even if you haven’t been wasting your inheritance on wine, women and song, God still welcomes you in the midst of your persecutions, trials and sufferings.

I remember once coming home to visit my mother, and my step father treated me like the dirt under the carpet. It was a very depressing experience. But while I was suffering through this, God the Father reminded me that when I came to His house, He would give me a fine coat, put a ring on my finger and kill the fatted calf for a nice meal. In short, I was welcome at my Father’s house! Suddenly, my step father became my brother, whom I could forgive, and God the Father became my true Father. And the Kingdom of God became my true home in this life and the next. I was standing in my brother’s house, not my Father’s house, and what a difference that realization made!

Understanding who we are in relation to God heals us so we can forgive. God the Father delights to be among men. “Your heaven, My creatures, is in paradise together with My chosen ones, because it is there that you will contemplate Me in an everlasting vision and will enjoy eternal glory. My heaven is on earth with you all, O men! Yes, it is on earth and in your souls that I look for My happiness and My joy.” (God the Father to Mother Eugenia Elisabetta Ravasio in an approved apparition of the Catholic Church).

So turn to Him often. Make your soul a resting place for the Father -- where He can put up His feet, smoke a cigar and in fact find His delight with you. Then you will find the courage to forgive and intercede.

The world needs prayer not more accusation. After all, that is the devil’s job.

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