Last weekend, our scriptures invited & encouraged each one of us to consider our stewardship of God’s grace and virtue; most particularly, in the ways that we admonish and correct and build up one another. This weekend, our Sacred Scriptures are inviting us to consider more aspects of the Stewardship of God’s grace: we possess the ability to forgive—and do so often & freely—and we possess the inclination to be a Christian people filled with hope.
Last weekend, I invited each of us to consider reflecting on gossip and derision: those self-centered inclinations toward judgment and ultimately, toward sin. I invited you to seek forgiveness from someone whom you may have hurt or toward whom you had been unkind. If you made such an attempt, you did so with some fear, with humility, yes…but also with a sense of hope: hope that they would see your goodness, hear your confession and offer you a new start; welcoming you back into an authentic friendship with them. Hopefully, the words of the prophet Sirach guided the person you approached:
Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight. The vengeful will suffer the LORD’s vengeance, for he remembers their sins in detail. Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.
This is one of the reasons for our hope, is it not? The Lord reminds us through the prophet that although we are inclined to grasp hold of anger and resentment, we are made for something very different: we are made for an ongoing cycle of reconciliation and forgiveness; we are made for enduring little deaths so that we might cling to new life; we are made to move through the difficulties and sufferings of this present age so that we can have our hope fulfilled—that we can live fully in the life of the Risen Christ.
Yes, Jesus—who died on the Cross—shared an encounter with us who have faith: an encounter with the living God and an encounter with a hope stronger than the sufferings of fear, of terror, of horror and of death. And it is this encounter with hope that can now transform us anew: to be a people of faith in God’s promise; to be a people of ongoing forgiveness; to be a people of ever-growing hope in the face of God who loves us, draws near to us and deeply longs for our friendship.
And we see so clearly in the story told by Christ in today’s gospel that because we are forgiven time and time again, we, too, must offer forgiveness time and time again. We ask for forgiveness with a sure and certain hope that we will be received and forgiven; we offer forgiveness time and time again so that hope in our own forgiveness will be assured. This ongoing cycle of loving reconciliation is a further demonstration that our hope is not foolish, but rather, our hope is a gift of God’s grace.
Today, on September 11th, God’s gifts of grace are still flowing. Earlier today, Pope Benedict expressed his prayerful solidarity with each of us as our country marks the 10th anniversary of the attacks of 9/11. Our Holy Father writes:
“On this day my thoughts turn to the somber events of September 11, 2001, when so many innocent lives were lost…. I join you in commending the thousands of victims to the infinite mercy of Almighty God and in asking our heavenly Father to continue to console those who mourn the loss of loved ones.”
The Holy Father continued:
“The American people are to be commended for the courage and generosity that they showed in the rescue operations and for their resilience in moving forward with hope…”
God’s grace is encouraging us—even now—to be a people of faith and of hope. So, as a people of faith, let us pray together, today during this Mass and for a few moments outside at our memorial fire—pray that God will receive the souls of those who died so unexpectedly and unjustly on that day ten years ago. By doing so, we can affirm our Gospel faith that however and whenever death comes for us, life is changed, but not ended. We can remember that we—the living—can help others after their deaths by our continual prayers for them. And we can strengthen our hope that our own lives, even when burdened by worry and overshadowed by death, will lead to a wonderful and glorious future with the heavenly saints, and angels…and God himself. Pray, too, for those who continue to suffer from fear and ongoing terror: such sins against God’s love for us. Pray, finally, that we will be a new people of forgiveness and peace, founded on the virtue of hope
On this anniversary of 9/11, and whenever the troubles of earth tempt us to lose sight of heaven, let us remember the truths of our faith and the gifts of God’s grace. Thus the sting of death is diminished and the light of hope shines on the path ahead of us.
God love you…always