Reflections 1st October 2017

A Reflection for the Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mt: 21: 28 - 32 (  ) 

I was preaching at a parish Mass a couple of Sundays ago; the subject was the parable about the servant who had a huge debt cancelled but who, in turn, refused to cancel a tiny debt due to him by his fellow servant.  For me the message was clear.  We each receive the mercy of God and are in turn to be merciful one to another. 

After Mass a married couple waited to have a word.  The woman found the gospel particularly difficult as her sister had been abused as a child and still carried a deep wound. Her husband too had to leave his work as he had been bullied and was also hurting.  How could they be merciful and forgive those who caused such hurt to them?

I took a deep breath, inhaling their obvious pain.  My development of the parable had opened an old wound. Afterwards I thought that perhaps it is best for preachers to present the parables of Jesus as they are, allowing the listeners to locate themselves within rather than have roles ascribed to them. That is what Jesus did.  His powerful message is given by way of a story into which the listener can choose to enter, perhaps when the time is right, or keep out. 

The time wasn’t right for the second son in today’s parable. He said “yes, yes,” but the Father’s invitation went over his head.  The first son pulled back from doing the Father’s will for him but then came around to it. 

The Word of God is powerful. But this is a power offered, not imposed.  When the time is right it can seep into our lives, easing burdens and healing wounds.   But first, we need to recognise our woundedness, and seek the healing that is on offer. This recognition eluded the chief priests and the elders listening to Jesus, but not the tax collectors and prostitutes who came to him in search of God’s mercy.

I was chastened by the married couple’s outpouring of pain above, and relieved when, through their honesty, the burden was lightened and the desire to forgive enkindled. The time was right, thank God.

Billy Cleary C.S.Sp. - Fr Billy was ordained in 1982. He has ministered in Ireland, The Gambia, Sierra Leone, the USA and Zimbabwe.