12th/13th September 2020

posted 16 Sept 2020, 01:52 by Parish Office
Homily for the Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A (12 & 13/9/20) 

I can remember, before I started training for the priesthood, that a priest said to me that when you train for the priesthood, some things can’t be taught in the classroom – you can only learn them at the coalface, as it were. So after I was ordained a priest, it was both good and necessary to be able to turn to other priests of much greater pastoral experience for advice with some of the situations I came across. 

One of the issues I turned to for advice was that of forgiveness. Not God’s forgiveness, but people who had perhaps been deeply hurt by someone in the past, and found it difficult to forgive. Domestic violence was one such example. Sometimes, good Catholics find themselves so deeply hurt by someone that it then begins to affect their faith. They can’t pray those words in the Our Father “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. They just can’t bring themselves to forgive. One thing I often say is that we can often associate together the words “forgive” and “forget”. But they aren’t the same thing. Sometimes, we can easily forgive and forget. It was only a small matter, it wasn’t much of an issue, and if you hadn’t come and said sorry, I might have forgotten that it ever happened in a week’s time anyway. But sometimes, things are so bad, they cause such deep distress, that there is no way you will ever forget it. Forgiveness is not the same as forgetting. It is possible to forgive without ever forgetting. Forgiveness is saying that someone owes us a debt, but we are not going to go and collect the debt. The debt is cancelled. There may be times in life when we are in danger of going back on that, of digging up the past, and it might require an effort and quite a bit of prayer to make sure that someone stays forgiven. Forgiving, and forgetting, are two different things. 

Another example: I know of a situation where there were two work colleagues, and something happened. The person who was offended against didn’t think it was much of an issue. But somehow management found out and got involved, and the offender submitted a note of apology. The person who had been “offended” didn’t think it was much of a big deal, but others thought it was. The offence could have been easily forgotten about without any forgiveness being offered. But the one said sorry, and they other gave forgiveness. 
Our faith is a very practical faith. There can be parts of our faith that we don’t appreciate or see the worth, until someone, or some situation, means that we join the dots and see the relevance. What about penance, and offering things up? Conflicts arise between people because this person want to do A, and the other wants to do B. The first person does not want to do B, and the second person does not want to do A. We have a problem and a conflict. Can both people always insist on always getting their way? Penance and offering things up mean that we do things for God that we wouldn’t necessarily choose to do. So when we have a conflict, we can choose to go along with what the other person wants, and offer it up as a penance. Sometimes, we might later on realise that the other person had the better idea; at other times we might have to bite our tongue to avoid saying, “I told you it wouldn’t work” etc. etc. 

Connected with that, we all notice that others have faults. But we need to acknowledge our own. “Those living in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” So a quick story for you: There was a young man who grew up in an African tribe, and went to England to university. When he came back to his tribe, he became king after the death of his father, but he found that his golden throne, situated in his grass house, was a bit uncomfortable. So he ordered a settee from England. It arrived, and he had the throne stored up in the loft. 
The months went by, and he found his settee an ideal place to conduct his business as king, and he could recline on it when he wanted to and put his feet up. Anyway, time went by, and time went by, and then one day, the ceiling gave way, and the throne fell down from the loft and squashed him. And the moral of the story is: those living in grass houses shouldn’t stow thrones. So there’s something for you. As Christians, we are called to forgive. But forgiving is not the same as forgetting, and we need to remember our own faults, so that we don’t judge others too harshly. Those living in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.