Twenty Fourth Sunday

Forgiveness is at the heart of the Christian message yet one of the stumbling blocks for many Christians is forgiveness. Impetuosity of Peter draws a clear message from Jesus. There is no limit to forgiveness. Story of two brothers who were after having an almighty row. At bedtime they were still at it and the mother said to the eldest boy Pat, ‘You must not let the sun go down on your anger. If Sean were to die tonight the last thing you would remember is that you fought with him and you would never forgive yourself. Away Pat went and the mother heard what he said. Sean I’ve come to forgive you in case you die tonight, if you don’t, watch out cos tomorrow I’ll plaster you’
What are the lessons of the parable?
1. God forgives, he loves to forgive, he forgives always, he is joyful and generous in his forgiveness. G. K. Chesterton was asked why he became a Catholic: ‘To have my sins forgiven”
2. Second of all he asks us to forgive, to be compassionate; like him to forgive as often as is necessary. Faith: is not an abstract formula, it is finding God in my neighbor. He is present in everyone around me. How often should I forgive? How often do I expect to be forgiven? If we are sincere, we have all have struggled with this in our lives. We find it hard to let grudges, anger and resentment. It is hard to firgive and forget when we have a serious wrong donw to us.
When I was studying in Rome many years ago, one of the most moving journeys I did was to visit the home place of St. Maria Goretti. In a small village called Satricum near Nettuno about 40 kilometeres south west of Rome, this is where the Goretti and Serenelli families lived. A wealthy condess had left the house to the two families, the Goretti’s on one side and the Serenelli’s on the other side. Poverty brought the two families together in search of a better life. Maria was one of 7 children, who lost their father when Maria was nine. Maria had to carry out the household duties and look after her siblings as her mother had to go and work in the fields; it was a hard life. But she trusted in God’s providence. Alessandro knew how to read but he suffered from the consequences an an unhealthy family environment; his father was an alcohlic, some of his brothers had mental disorders. When he was 20 he was obsessed with young Maria Gortetti who was only 11 and often approached her with bad intentions. She rejected his advances and tried to avoid being alone with him. One day he saw her on the balcony trying to mend a shirt. He drages her into the house by force and she screams for help, God does not want this, you will go to hell. He grabs a knife and stabs her 14 times. She is taken to hospital in a critical condition and the next day she died. Before she died, she received the last rites she told her coinfessor when he asked her if she would forgive Alessandro, she said she wanted him with her in paradise. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison. The first few years were in isolation; he had a dream and he saw Maria in a beautiful garden and she picked 14 lillies and gave them to him. He saw this as a symbol of the 14 stab wounds that he had inflcited on Maria and that she had forgiven him. This set him on the path of conversion. When he left jail he entered as a lay brother into a Capuchin monastery. Pope Francis has called St. Maria Goretti the saint of forgivness. She was canonised in 1950 and her mother and siblings were present at the canonization, and so was Alessandro Serenelli, her assassin. Pope Pius X11 named her the patron saint of chastity and victims of sexual violence.
Is thers somebody in my life who I have not forgiven? Could I try to forgive that person today?