In the heat of the moment, with tempers flaring and family members shouting out every ill-chosen word, the power of forgiveness probably is the farthest thing from anyone’s mind. Forgiveness occupies a position of major importance in Christian life. Jesus wanted his followers to love even their enemies. Typically, however, those whom most of us are called to forgive are not actually enemies.
When we feel offended by someone and the question of forgiveness ultimately arises, it more than likely will involve someone close to us—a family member, a longtime friend, or possibly a co-worker. Usually the people we forgive play vital roles in our lives. They have done so in the past, and we bank on the hope that they will do so in the future. Forgiveness represents a vote of confidence in our future together. It powerfully reveals our conviction that this future together really matter and bears true promise.
Injuries come in a wide variety of forms, with some much harder to handle than others. But no one, I assume, enjoys feeling injured or offended. What offense triggered the disagreement that left family members dodging each other’s angry remarks? Did the disagreement stem from a disappointment, the feeling one person had of being let down by another, forced, perhaps, to complete an exhausting task alone without the assistance that was promised earlier?
A misunderstanding—a failure to communicate effectively—also may have been the culprit in an angry squabble. People frequently do not hear each other well enough when it comes to planning long weekends, deciding how to contend with a child’s difficult behavior or what to do with the extra $250 in a tax refund. “We make many mistakes. We all do,” Pope Francis told families around the world in October 2013. That is why knowing how to forgive is so essential to families. It happens, he commented, that “harsh words are spoken” in families. He recommended that family members “forgive one another each day.”
To be clear, the offenses and injuries many people experience in life strikingly exceed the bounds of the simplest misunderstandings and disappointments that often erupt into squabbles and short-lived exchanges of angry words in homes and workplaces. Perhaps a once-trusted associate later fails to meet even the simplest demands of trust. Other times, people are not told the truth about matters of great consequence for them. Possibly they experience repeated expressions of disrespect in the form of mean putdowns or bullying.
There are hard situations too—in homes and outside the home—when fear takes over and someone’s wellbeing and safety appear to be at risk. People in such situations may need the support of others and responsible counseling to chart a course forward in which both charity and a healthy measure of self-respect play roles. It could take time for them to determine what forgiveness will mean, the forms it could take, and how to be freed from any spirit of vengeance.
These kinds of difficult-to-handle situations prompt some to view the entire notion of Christian forgiveness as a weakness. They suspect that people characterized by forgiving attitudes are unable to stand their ground in the face of hurtful actions. And when it comes to offenses of all kinds, there are those who fear that any readiness to forgive is a way of enabling others to continue the very actions that caused trouble in the first place. But if Christian forgiveness powerfully affirms the promise of the future, it does not authorize anyone to return to past painful behaviors.
Clearly, the call to forgive offenses is not a pious platitude. Forgiveness encompasses thoughtfulness, love and a willingness to count all that is good in another person, while not refusing to set boundaries or agreeing to be hurt again. Rather than a weakness, forgiveness is courageous, Pope Francis believes. Speaking to youths in the Central African Republic, Pope Francis asked whether they understood what it means to be “courageous in forgiving, courageous in loving, courageous in building peace.” The Pope noted how “practitioners of forgiveness, specialists in reconciliation, and experts in mercy” repeal to others “the secret of our strength, our hope and our joy, all of which have their source in God.”
Forgiveness, in addition, offers protection “from the temptation to seek revenge” against enemies, and “from the spiral of endless retaliation” the pope said. Anger, it often is noted, becomes its own trap in many relationships. Anger gives rise to a spiral of continued anger, but forgiveness possesses the strength to break this cycle.
Forgiveness expresses faith, the faith that people can indeed change and grow. Thus, forgiveness can be viewed as a life-giving force. For Christians, then, forgiveness is godlike. It creatively and mercifully breathes new life into the very atmosphere surrounding human relationships.
TWENTY-SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
“The just one, because of his faith, shall live,” says the prophet Habakkuk some six hundred years before Jesus’ birth. These words are taken up by Paul in his thesis, “In the Gospel is revealed the righteousness of God from faith to faith, as it is written, ‘The one who is righteous by faith will live.’” (Romans 1:17). The prophet cried out to God to intervene to help his people in their desperation. His cry expresses his faith that God cares for his people and will respond.
Today’s readings offer a deeper insight into the nature of Christian faith. In Paul’s Letter to Timothy, the Apostle encourages his disciple to “stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.” Timothy has been entrusted with protecting the faith of his community. Paul reminds him of the gift of the Spirit he received that brings with it a gift of boldness that provides strength to overcome obstacles.
In the Gospel, when the Apostles tell the Lord, “increase our faith,” they are not asking for the content of their faith to be increased but for the quality of their faith to be enhanced. In other words, the faith they refer to is their relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus and the disciples are concerned with the depth of their faith relationship. It is not the quantity of faith that is significant but the quality of the relationship with Christ. After all, as Jesus said, faith the size of a mustard seed could move a tree. Genuine faith, the depth of our genuine relationship with Christ, enables us to perform the impossible.
In today’s Responsorial Psalm, the people are led to respond to God with joy and thanksgiving. He is the one who made them and who shepherds and guides them. Their ancestors lost sight of God’s goodness and hardened their hearts, but those who sing this Psalm know not to do so. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that dominant themes are seen in the Psalms. “Certain constant characteristics appear throughout the Psalms—the distraught, the believer who, in his preferential love for the Lord, is exposed to a host of enemies and temptations, but who waits upon the faithful God, will do, in the certitude of his love and in submission to his will” (#2589).
The Apostles in the Gospel reading request that their faith be increased. In reply, Jesus tells a story of a servant who does the bidding of his master without seeking anything for himself. We are to proceed as that servant, responding to what God has commanded. In that way, our faith will grow. The Second Vatican Council document Lumen gentium explains, “All disciples of Christ, persevering in prayer and praising God, should present themselves as a sacrifice, living, holy and pleasing to God. They should everywhere on earth bear witness to Christ and give an answer to everyone who asks a reason for their hope of eternal life” (#10).
The author of the Letter to Timothy seeks to enliven the spirit of discipleship by which others come to know Christ. Lumen gentium explains that the Church is imperfect even as it strives to help people journey to God. “Until the arrival of the new heavens and the new earth in which justice dwells, the pilgrim church, in its sacraments and institutions, which belong to this present age, carries the mark of this world which will pass, and it takes its place among the creatures which groan and until now suffer the pains of childbirth and awaits the revelation of the children of God” (#48).
For Your Reflection: When have you grown weary as you observed violence and misery? How have you responded when you heart begins to harden to others’ needs? During what circumstances have you longed for an increase in faith?
ANNUAL BLESSING OF PETS
This afternoon, Sunday, October 6, we will have the Blessing of Pets on the sidewalk in front of St. Peter’s at 2:00 P.M. Please feel free to bring any and/or all your pets. We have this blessing annually near the Feast of St. Francis. In case of rain, the blessing ceremony will take place in the lobby of the church.
MEMORIAL OF ST. POPE JOHN XXIII
Friday, October 11, 2019
When on October 20, 1958 the cardinals, assembled in conclave, elected Angelo Roncalli as pope, many regarded him, because of his age and ambiguous reputation, as a transitional pope, little realizing that the pontificate of this man of 76 years would mark a turning point in history and initiate a new age for the Church. He took the name of John in honor of the precursor and the beloved disciple, but also because it was the name of a long line of popes whose pontificates had been short.
Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, the third of thirteen children, was born on November 25, 1881, near Bergamo, Italy, of a family of sharecroppers. He attended elementary school in the town, tutored by a priest, and at the age of twelve entered the seminary in Bergamo. He interrupted his studies for service in the Italian Army, but returned to the seminary, completed his work for a doctorate in theology, and was ordained in 1904. Continuing his studies in Canon Law, he was appointed secretary to the new bishop of Bergamo, Giacomo Rdini-Tedeschi. Angelo served this social-minded prelate for nine years, acquiring first-hand experience and a broad understanding of the problems of the working class.
With the entry of Italy into World War I in 1915, he was recalled to military service as a chaplain. On leaving the service in 1918, he was appointed spiritual director of the seminary, but he also found time to open a hostel for students in Bergamo. In 1921 he was called to Rome to reorganize the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. In 1925 he was appointed apostolic visitator to Bulgaria, where he concerned himself with the problems of the Easter Churches. He was transferred in 1934 to Turkey and Greece as apostolic delegate, and he set up an office in Istanbul for locating prisoners of war. Then in 1944 he was appointed nuncio to Paris to assist in the Church’s post-war efforts in France and became the first permanent observer of the Holy See at UNESCO. Finally in 1953 he became Cardinal Patriarch of Venice, where he expected to spend his last years in pastoral work.
Pope John stunned the world when he convoked an ecumenical council for the universal Church (the Second Vatican Council), enlarged the College of Cardinals from 70 to 87 so that there would be greater representation from all over the world, began a revision of the Code of Canon Law, created a new Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, and wrote two magnificent encyclical letters Mater et Magistra and Pacem in terris. He died on June 3, 1963, was beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 3, 2000, and canonized by Pope Francis on April 27, 2014.
One request that we frequently hear at St. Peter’s is whether we have anyone available for spiritual direction. Well, the answer is YES. We have two individuals who are well-qualified spiritual directors: Sister Fran Sulzer and Br. Guillermo Morales, O.F.M. Sister Fran has been doing spiritual direction here for a number of years. She is usually at St. Peter’s on Tuesdays, when she works out of a room on the mezzanine. She also has a practice in Park Ridge. If you would like to contact Sr. Fran, she can be reached at 847-696-9026.
Br. Guillermo has a certificate in spiritual direction from the Claret Center in Hyde Park and a Master’s Degree in spirituality from Catholic Theological Union. You may contact him at gamorales05gmail.com or through the general telephone number for St. Peter’s—312-372-5111.
We are very pleased to have both Sister Fran and Br. Guillermo on our staff to offer the opportunity for spiritual direction. I hope you will find them helpful if you are seeking direction in the near future.
YOUNG ADULTS AT ST. PETER’S
We invite young adults between the ages of 20-40 to come to the weekly sessions of Saint Peter’s Young Adults on Mondays beginning at 5:30 P.M. with some refreshments and continuing with some input and discussion at 6:00 P.M. Once a month the group meets in the friars’ chapel for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and reflection on a passage from the Scriptures. Often there is faith sharing and discussion of topics current in the group. Other times there are elements of fun, e.g., an outing in the city such as a baseball game or skating at Millennium Park. Periodically there are also service opportunities at Franciscan Outreach. We promise that each session will conclude by 7:00 P.M. so that you can plan the remainder of your evening according to your needs. Coming to these meetings is a great way to meet new friends and to deepen your Catholic faith. You may stop down to the Saint Clare auditorium at any time; you don’t have to be a member of the group from the very beginning.
CHICAGO MARATHON 2019
Next Sunday, October 13, is the annual Chicago Marathon. Participants wend their way through many neighborhoods, including the Loop, as they run the 26.2 mile course. If you are planning to participate in either the 9:00 or 11:00 Mass next Sunday, be sure to leave your residence early in order to make it on time for Mass since many of the downtown streets will be closed to both auto and pedestrian traffic (you will have to wait until a break between the runners to quickly cross). It may take a little longer to get to church, but with patience and perseverance you will arrive!
A CHUCKLE FOR YOUR PLEASURE
As a sergeant in a parachute regiment, I took part in several nighttime exercises. Once, I was seated next to a lieutenant fresh from jump school. He was quiet and looked a bit pale, so I struck up a conversation. “Scared, lieutenant?” I asked.
“No,” he replied, “Just a bit apprehensive.”
I asked, “What’s the difference?”
He replied, “That means I’m scared, but with a university education.”