Homily for Ordinary Time – 19th Week Thursday, 8-13-20, Year A
Optional Memorial St. Pontian, Pope and Hippolytus Priest – Martyred in the 3rd Century in Italy under Emperor Maximinus
Readings: 1st – Ez 12:1-12, gospel – Mt 18-21-19:1
When I was a freshman in college, a bunch of us decided we needed to have a party. So, we sat down and began to plan how we would go about it. One of the girls in our group said, “Hey, my parents are gone, and I have the house to myself this weekend, we can have it there.”
Now we weren’t unruly knuckleheads who trashed things when we partied, but we were known for having some legendary parties. So, we bought a quarter barrel of beer, some wine, got a tin bushel barrel and filled it with ice. Someone brought the music and by that Saturday night we were laughing, joking, and goofing around, plastic solo cups in hand at our friend’s parents’ house. There was about 16 of us and we filled the house.
About two hours into the party that Saturday night, the girl’s parents pulled into the driveway. They weren’t supposed to be home until Monday. Our friend, whose house it was, freaked out and said we needed to get everything gathered up and get out, NOW. But there was not time. The parents walked in before we could even move, and you could see the blood just leave their faces. They were ashen and looked like a deer in the headlights. They could not believe what they were seeing. No one moved, except for the person who turned the music off when her mother began to speak.
You could tell her mother was agitated but calm. She collected herself as she expressed her disappointment in her daughter, then began to explain to us what kind of sin we were committing. How our bodies were the temple of the Lord and how polluting it with alcohol was a gross mistreatment of God’s creation. She explained how we disrespect each other by allowing the freedom of our sometimes-poor choices to take over our actions. I remember thinking to myself, “This woman is off her rocker with this stuff.” I thought, “None of us are bad people and what’s the matter with having a little fun and loosening up once in a while?” As I sat there listening to what my old self would call a “rant,” I decided I was going to give her a piece of my mind about how she had no right telling us how to act and live. My roommate, who was sitting next to me, could see I was not having any of this, and just as I was about to say something, he grabbed my arm and said, “Don’t, this is their house and you’re in it.” He was right.
After the mother was done speaking to us, she politely asked that we all leave, taking everything we had brought with us. To her daughter she said, “Help your friends load everything up and then start cleaning up all of this by yourself.” The mother did not want any of us to help clean anything, just take our stuff and leave. We loaded up everything and went back to our apartment, with maybe half the group, and finished our party.
That following Monday I asked one of my classmates, who was a good friend of the girl whose house we partied at, “What ever happened to her after we left?” He said, “You know, she told me that after we left her mom and dad helped her clean up. They told her they were disappointed in her but that they understood why she did it. They told her they cared about and loved her very much and forgave her, no grounding, no yelling, no fights. I’m telling you; she wishes they would have been angry and yelled at her instead of giving her love and forgiveness. That feeling of disappointing her parents was punishment enough. Her mom told her she held no ill will toward the rest of us who were there. She even went as far as to say we were invited back to their house, just less the party part.”
I think about what that mother said all the time. I look back on that experience now and realize how misguided and arrogant I was and how right the parents were. Not only was I forgiven by this girl’s parents, but I was forgiven by God. He didn’t abandon me because of my sinful ways. He forgave me, forgave me again, and He keeps on forgiving me even now.
I am constantly humbled by forgiveness, so much so that I wrote a little prayer that I say all the time: “God, you have looked after me with so much love and caring. I have received good things from you, even when I didn’t ask for them. My prayers You have answered. You have opened my eyes and I have seen the goodness of your countenance. I am unworthy to be called your servant, so without ceasing, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the forgiveness and mercy You have shown me. Amen.”
I shudder at the sometimes-sinful life I’ve led. Many times, I should have died because of some choices I have made and my arrogance for not considering the value of who I was, a creation and gift from God. Only by His persistent forgiveness am I here today. Only by His mercy do I live a life of love with my wife and receive the love and caring of my children, true gifts from God.
To forgive is to love. To love is to be like Christ. How many times do we need to forgive our neighbor? The times are countless, infinite and unending. No matter how bad the incursion is against us, we must forgive. It will change you. It will liberate you from your hurt and save you from destruction. It also just might save the one you forgive, as it did me.