Mass celebrated at Saint Leo the Great Parish, Altona North

Saturday 16 September 2017

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am honoured to be with you and with Father Paul Tru as I begin my visitation of the parish, which will continue on Wednesday.

We are invited to let our hold on others be quickly consumed in the fire of love or if we refuse to forgive them from the depths of our heart and continuously, we leave court with our plea dismissed only to find ourselves in the dock among the accused.

In today’s Readings we see a contrast between the Lord’s way of looking at things and a very human, practical way. It is not surprising that Peter asks: “Lord, how often must I forgive my brother?” He thought he was being generous in proposing seven times and yet when Our Lord says seventy-seven times he hits the nail on the head because an attitude of forgiveness often comes only from a realisation that we are in the same boat as the person who is asking our forgiveness.

Bishop Tom Wright was working as Chaplain in a University College where some of the students were doing theological studies, others doing a wide range of courses. In the particular week some students had been very disruptive making it impossible for people to sleep at night or study in day. Some Christian students wanted just to forgive the trouble makers, others wanted to confront them and get the troublesome students dismissed. At the weekday lunch time service this Gospel was read.

But the lesson of this story really is massive. Every time you accuse someone else you accuse yourself. Every time you forgive you pass on a drop of water out of the bucketful that God has given you. From God’s point of view the distance between being ordinarily sinful, which we all are, and extremely sinful, what the people we do not like seem to be, is like the distance between Melbourne and Sydney seen from the point of view of the sun and so on. The key thing is not that we should just swallow all resentment and forgive and forget. It is that one should never ever give up making forgiveness and reconciliation our goal. If confrontation has to happen it must always be with forgiveness in mind, never revenge.

Our Lord puts it very bluntly at the end of the Gospel. Those who refuse to forgive will themselves be refused forgiveness. It is not just like a Christmas present. It is not like the meal that you will get when you come back home. Forgiveness is like the air in your lungs. There is only room for you to inhale the next lungful when you have just breathed out the previous one. Until we have breathed out we cannot take in more. Until we have forgiven our heart can never embrace others more powerfully.

When we pray at the end of Mass that this Eucharist may influence our thoughts and actions, surely it challenges you and me to realise that we have been forgiven over and over and over again. The Lord invites us to be instruments of forgiveness because only that will bring us unity with others and a journey to our true home.

+ Denis J. Hart,

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