Sunday Eucharist prayers, readings and reflections are available below.
TRINITY XIV SUNDAY 13 SEPTEMBER
"All ye who seek for comfort sure
In trouble and distress,
Whatever sorrow vex the mind,
Or guilt the soul oppress.
Jesus, who gave himself for you
Upon the cross to die,
Opens to you his sacred heart;
O to that heart draw nigh."
Almighty God, whose only Son has opened for us a new and living way into your presence: give us pure hearts and steadfast wills to worship you in spirit and in truth; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.
Romans 14:1-12, Matthew 18:21-35.
Give us grace to forgive others as God has forgiven us.
May those who hold authority exercise it with mercy.
Have pity on all who are imprisoned by debt, and upon their families.
We pray for the sick, for Paul Evans,Gerald Lewis, Adrian Lewis, Mary Maxwell.
May the souls of the faithful, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
The theme in that reading from Matthew’s Gospel is clear enough; it’s Forgiveness. So, what is forgiveness? We all know the word, but trying to pin it down isn’t so easy.
The starting point for forgiveness is recognizing that there’s something which needs forgiving –an injury has been done to us by someone else, and we’re meant to forgive them. But what does that involve? Think of that popular expression, “forgive and forget”. It’s so familiar, but it’s misleading. It suggests that we should say to the person who’s hurt us, “there, there, we’ll pretend it never happened and carry on as before.” But the point of forgiveness is that it involves an injury done to us which we can’t forget, because it’s too painful. It’s not something we can push out of sight and pretend it’s gone away. If we try to do that, the wound will simply go on festering under the surface and poison us.
Forgiveness begins by facing the facts and saying, “yes, this person did do this to me.” The danger is that we can get stuck in a situation where we’re endlessly saying, “I was hurt by this person”, and go no further. Worst of all, we can get stuck in a desire for revenge. If you want an example think of Dickens’ character, Miss Havisham, sitting amid the decaying wreckage of her wedding day when she was jilted, fixated on past injury and planning revenge on men as a result.
But forgiveness means reaching a point where we can choose to look at the hurt done to us and see it from a different angle. If we can do that, then we can say, “yes, I was hurt, but I’m not going to allow that hurt to become the thing which rules my life.” It means saying to the person who hurt us, either face to face or in imagination, “you did this to me, but I’m not letting it ruin my life, and I don’t want it to ruin yours.” I don’t pretend doing this is easy – if we’ve been badly hurt it may take us years to come to that point – but however difficult we may find forgiving, we can always pray for the help of God to keep alive in us the desire to forgive.
The example we need here is the greatest one of all, and that’s the relationship which God wants to have with each of us. What harms that relationship? Obviously, our sins, those thoughts, words and deeds by which we’ve spoiled our own lives, possibly the lives of others, and gone against God’s purposes. Now, what is God’s response to this? He says, “Yes, you did these things, but I don’t want them to spoil our relationship indefinitely. I want to work with you to heal the damage. Are you willing to do that?” We see this in its clearest form when Jesus on the Cross prays, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.”
In other words, forgiveness is saying “I won’t give the last word to the wrong that was done to me. I want healing for myself and for the wrongdoer.” But in addition to forgiving, we need to know that we need forgiveness, both from God and also from those we have hurt. And to receive forgiveness we must be prepared to admit what we’ve done.
Knowing that we have been forgiven should change us, and should be the place from which we can become forgiving people. To be forgiven, yet not to forgive in our turn is dreadful, as we saw with the man in Our Lord’s parable. He was excused an astronomical debt, but it didn’t make him generous toward the person who owed him a trifling sum of money, so the forgiveness he’d been given was withdrawn.
To deal adequately with forgiveness would mean dealing with issues such as repentance, justice, and changing our way of life in response to being forgiven. I know I’ve left all kinds of loose ends in what I’ve been saying.
But that doesn’t matter, because forgiveness is such a personal thing that what we should do is to go and reflect for ourselves on what forgiveness means for us, starting with those areas where we know we need to ask for forgiveness, from God and from people. Then we should ask how we can show our gratitude for being forgiven by redirecting our lives towards what God wants for us, including learning how to be forgiving.
Remember Jesus’s reply to Peter’s question, “How many times must I forgive? Seventy times?” Jesus’s answer, “No, seventy times seven”, was a way of saying, “Don’t be ridiculous. There’s no limit to how much you must be prepared to forgive. It must become your way of life.” The implications of that ought to give us food for prayer and thought for quite some time. It was no accident that Jesus insisted that we make a specific prayer every day, “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” If we wish to be forgiven, we must be prepared to want to forgive.