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Christ the King

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2014/11/28 at 12:00 AM

As we come to the end of the year, Holy Mother Church turns our minds to what are traditionally called the 4 Last Things: death, judgment, Heaven, and hell.
In particular today we are called to meditate on Jesus Christ as the Sovereign King of the Universe, the Almighty One, Whom some day we all must face as our judge.
As we consider this moment of supreme importance, it’s obviously so very important that we are well prepared for this meeting.
The fearful part of facing Christ our King is that we are all sinners. This is one of the saddest realities of humanity. All of us are marked not only by the original sin of Adam and Eve, but we have also committed countless personal sins.
While, no doubt, we have also pleased our Lord with our good and virtuous acts, most of us have committed at least some sins that merit hell.
But while the fact that we are sinners is indeed a sad reality, it is not the most fundamental human reality.
The most fundamental human reality is that we are created in God’s image and likeness, and that despite our sinfulness, God still loves us and wants to save us!
So while Jesus is a just judge, He is also our merciful Savior. And if we are truly sorry for our sins and seek forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, then His mercy is ours!
But there is one little caveat to our Lord’s mercy: If we wish to enjoy God’s mercy, then we must be merciful in turn. If we wish to be forgiven, then we must forgive. The Gospels bear this out for us.
In the 6th chapter of Matthew, just after He has taught His disciples the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus says to them: “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”
In the 18th chapter of Matthew Jesus tells the parable of the unmerciful servant who, even though he had been forgiven his debts to his master, refused to forgive debts owed to him. Again in this passage Jesus makes it clear that our failure to forgive nullifies our Lord’s forgiveness for us.
One thing that I think is important to note about these biblical passages is that none of them puts qualifications on forgiveness. Jesus doesn’t make any exceptions to the rule of forgiving others.
He doesn’t say that if a wrong is really great, we don’t have to forgive. In fact, when St. Peter asks Jesus: “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as 7 times?” Jesus replies: “I say to you, not 7 times, but 77 times!”
And so what we can deduce from this is that there should be no limit to our forgiveness, no matter how egregious the sin committed against us.
I bring this up today because this week with Thanksgiving we are entering into the holiday season. Between now and the new year, most of us will be having special gatherings with our families and friends – some of whom we do not see any other time of the year. This can be good or bad!
As a priest who sits in a confessional a couple times a week, I know that the holiday season – as wonderful as it is – is often a time for an increase in sins against charity!
It is an interesting reality that the ones who love us the most are the ones who hurt us the most, and vice versa. It’s very easy for the hurts and wounds that we cause each other to fester into full-blown grudges that we hold onto and nurse over the years.
From my point of view as a priest, I think there is nothing sadder that meeting a person who’s held onto a grudge for years on end and has refused to forgive and be reconciled with a loved one who has hurt him.
At the same time I also know that forgiveness can be difficult. When someone hurts us, especially if the wound is deep, then we have to contend a whole host of negative emotions that can cloud and confuse rational judgment.
Moreover, one’s sense of justice – often propped up by the vices of pride and anger – can harden one’s heart and deaden one’s conscience so that we believe that we are justified in holding onto our grudge and refusing to forgive.
Yet while we may satisfy the demands of our pride and anger, no one who refuses to forgive will ever be completely happy or at peace. That lack of forgiveness chains us to the vices of pride and anger and makes us less able to love – and less loveable.
Sadly, we all know that others can hurt us in unbelievably cruel ways, and when the damage that is done is serious, it cannot be ignored. So how do we move beyond our own pain to extend true forgiveness in those really difficult and painful situations?
For us to be able to forgive, we must be able to move beyond our negative emotions and to make the act of the will to love that person – even in their unloveliness. This requires virtue, specifically the virtues of courage, meekness, charity, and magnanimity.
Thus all forgiveness must begin with humility, which is the root of all virtue. When we are tempted to refuse forgiveness, it’s often helpful to take a step back and humbly call to mind all the ways we’ve hurt others.
In our humility we should cultivate the willingness to bear wrongs patiently, accepting the pain that others cause in our lives as a means of making reparation for our own sins.
Another helpful step is to pray earnestly for the person who has hurt us – for their healing and conversion – and to offer sacrifices and do penances for their sins. It’s difficult to hold a grudge for long against someone for whom you are doing penance!
Truly, if you really want to move beyond your hurts and extend forgiveness to someone who’s hurt you, you must be willing to bear and embrace the pain they’ve caused as a means of making reparation for their sins as well as your own.
This means that you must be willing to love the person who hurt you more than you love your pride. It means that you must desire his salvation more than you desire justice for the wrong committed against you.
Brothers and sisters, all of us cause wounds in others, and all of us must endure wounds from others. Sometimes these wounds can be quite painful and seemingly unable to be healed. But with Christ, all things are possible.
In order to prepare ourselves for that supreme moment when we will have to face Him as our Judge, let us ask ourselves if there’s anyone whom we have yet to forgive. Are there any grudges we’re holding onto?
If so, make the act of will here and now to let go of it. Don’t try to ignore the pain the person has caused you. Accept the pain and offer it up in reparation for their sins and yours, and as a prayer that our Lord might heal all that needs healing within them.
• In doing so we will free ourselves from a great deal of pain and misery, and we will become more like our merciful King in whose image and likeness we have been created.

 

24 November 2013

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio.
To enable the audio, lease go directly to Fr. Reid’s homily homilies and select the matching date.

Link to Homilies:
http://stanncharlotte.org/content/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&id=8&Itemid=61

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