Aloha Friday Message – September 11, 2020 – Memento Mori

2037AFC091120 – Memento mori

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   Sirach 28:6-7 Remember the end of your life, and set enmity aside; remember corruption and death, and be true to the commandments. Remember the commandments, and do not be angry with your neighbor; remember the covenant of the Most High, and overlook faults.

May Peace always be with you and may God bless you, Belovéd! Perhaps you do not recognize the phrases in this image. The Latin translates as “Time flees, Remember You Must Die.” Well, that’s not a very cheerful way to start off your Friday morning, is it? Look at our Key Verse for today. It is part of the first reading for Sunday, September 13, 2020: Sirach 27:30—28:7. It speaks to us of resentments that are nurtured and fortified by the desire for vengeance. The writer is named Joshua ben Sira, translated as “Jesus the son of Sirach of Jerusalem.” Ben Sira wrote in Hebrew, but his grandson later translated the book into Greek. The content of this lovely book is, in many ways, like the familiar Book of Proverbs, and is included in the list of writing called “Wisdom Literature.”

There is also Wisdom in the Epistle for this Sunday. The Apostle Paul says in Romans 14:7-9 We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. Jesus lives for the living and the dead; he has been both, and he rules over both. If we are living in Jesus, we are living with the living and dying with the dead. Time flees and death waits. We’re not going to be able to change that. If death is waiting a little farther down the road, we can choose to fill our lives with Life or empty our lives with Death. Life is founded in Love – Love of God and neighbor; Death is founded in indifference – indifference to God and to neighbor. Why do I say indifference instead of hate? Hate requires effort, the effort of acknowledging the other. Indifference won’t make that effort. Hate does require some work. Take, for example, the bearing of a grudge, the nurturing of enmity.

I think most of us have read the story (← Check it out!) about the black wolf and the white wolf inside of us, fighting for control. The story ends with the promise that the wolf we feed is the one that wins. In everything in our lives we face the same kind of dichotomy – the conflict between good and evil, between carnal and spiritual, between conscience and consciousness of the effect of our choices.

Many of us know – either directly or indirectly – of someone who has carried anger or hurt and nurtured it until it became huge and vicious, a snapping, snarling, terrifying beast, a black wolf that endangers the person and everyone who comes near. It has been said that hurt and anger when caged and constantly provoked become bitterness and a blind grudge takes its place in our hearts and minds. Grudges are heavy, difficult to carry because they have no handles, and dangerous because they can suddenly grow teeth and claws and tear us to shreds. They are the most fearsome and deadly form of self-awareness and the cause of much suffering. Forgiveness is the anti-grudge, the “grudge-icide” if you will, and it is something that all of us have within us because all of us need it. It is part of the Image of God which resides in our souls.

We often recall that God has created us in his image, and that we are to be like him as much as possible. We are called to be holy – that is, wholly whole, complete, and prepared for every good work – as God is Holy. He forgives our sins. He removes them so far from us that we cannot grasp how far; he not only forgives, but he also forgets. (See Isaiah 43:25) Can you forget your sins? I cannot forget mine, and often that’s because I have forgotten they are forgiven by God. Perhaps, though, they have not been forgiven by me or by those against whom I have sinned. That’s not what God intends, and Jesus very carefully explains it to the Apostles.

Perhaps you will recall the passage in Matthew 18 where Jesus set out the parameters for fraternal correction (2036AFC090420 – Watching the Watchers) in the Church – privately between you and another member, then with 2-3 witnesses, then with the church. If they will still refuse to repent and reform, they are to be considered as living outside the fraternity of the Saints. Nonetheless, we must always bear in mind that repentance and reform are always possible, so we forgive them. Forgiveness can be a tough pill to swallow!

Immediately following the passage in Matthew on fraternal correction we read in Matthew 18:21-22 21 Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. There is a similar admonition in Luke 17:3-4 Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive.” If we don’t, we are faking our “holiness.”

We are held responsible for the ways we may mislead others. If what we show them in our lives leads them to sin, that is charged to us. How can this be? We have enough trouble managing our own holiness and our own sinfulness. How is it we can be held accountable for something someone else does? The “why” of it is simple: That is God’s plan. It is the law of love. If we know love, we know God, and if we love God, we must love one another. If we love one another we must not sin against them – that is also a sin against God – but if they sin against us we must forgive them. That is, as God forgives us, we forgive others. What is the requisite step to forgiveness from God? It is repentance, and repentance includes the intention of reforming one’s life so as to avoid sin and the desire to be tempted.

“But s/he made me so angry! I just want to make them suffer for what they did to me! I cannot and will not forgive them, ever!” That is God’s option; it is not our option. Leviticus 19:18 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. So why do we keep grudges? Is that not what God abhors? We cling to our anger and nurture it. Do we really need to carry that burden? When we remember to live up to that image, we realize we are not here in the World for our own gratification (which is a surprise to many these days); no, indeed – we are here for the sake of others. It’s not so much what we are to receive as we live out our lives, but rather what we are to give.

Belovéd, let us give Love, share Love, receive Love, be Love. Honor the Giver by accepting the Gift.

In another passage in Sirach 27:30 – 28:1 we read 30 Anger and wrath, these also are abominations, yet a sinner holds on to them. 28 1The vengeful will face the Lord’s vengeance, for he keeps a strict account of their sins. We all know about that Bible verse that says “Vengeance is mine.” (See Deuteronomy 32:35 and Romans 12:19). God’s vengeance comes only after whopping-long periods of Grace and divine correction. Being forgiven, therefore, is something that we desperately need and hope for; it also causes us to rejoice when it happens: Psalm 32:1 Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. That joy comes to us not only when we are forgiven, but also when we forgive generously (as does God) and not begrudgingly. Another way to think of this is “the Lord loves a cheerful giver,” so give forgiveness cheerfully!

The point most often missed is this: Be forgiving and become forgiven. Ask and offer. Always seek, and expect to receive, the greater gift: The gift of giving. Peace and Joy are the result: John 16:24 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete. In other words, “Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” In fraternal correction we love our fellow Disciples enough to help them meld with the community. In the Love of Christ, we forgive one another as he forgives us – as meaning “in the same way as” not “while.”

   This is what Jesus taught to the Apostles on that day in his journey to Jerusalem (and of course to us as well). We know that they learned that lesson because of what the Apostle Peter later wrote in 1 Peter 4:8 Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. The hardships of forgiveness are minor compared to the blessings we have in Christ Jesus.

Do we recite The Lord’s Prayer, or do we pray it? What do we mean, what is our intention, when we say, as in Matthew 6:12-1412 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. 14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. That little word “as” is so powerful! Do we want God to forgive us precisely the way we forgive others? Selah. How often do we have to forgive? The Pharisees in Jesus’ day said three times was enough. Peter was showing off in front of the others and tried to show that he would be more generous than the Pharisees in his forgiveness by forgiving 7 times; they said three, Jesus said, “every time.”

That term in Greek is ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτά (hebdomēkontakis hepta’) { heb-dom-ay-kon-tak-is hep-tah’} and it means 70 X 7, 490 times. I’ve heard some scholars say it means 77 X 7; that’s 539 times! Seriously, who among us is going to keep track that long? And if so, how could keeping track for that long possibly be forgiveness as God intends? Jesus shows Peter – and us – that God never runs out of forgiveness. Remember, even if a mother could forget the child in her womb, God will not forget us; but he does forget our sins!

What about those who are not members of the Church? How often do we forgive them? They are our neighbors, and we are to love them as we love ourselves and each other, so 490 sounds about right for them, too. We need to stop revolting against God. How can he forgive our treason if we continue to fight against him? We need to repent and believe the Gospel. Do not think of your repentance as the cause of your forgiveness, but rather understand that forgiveness is the companion of repentance.

Time is flying and death is waiting. We can choose to make the journey peaceful or terrifying. Choose Peace, therefore, that you may live, and live as the Lord’s!

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever —
at your service, Belovéd!

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Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Biblical languages inserts from Bible Hub (Bible Hub: Search, Read, Study the Bible in Many Languages) Visit at http://biblehub.com

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

 

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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