Tuesday morning, and I woke up way early. Don’t know why, but there has to be a purpose. Twenty-six till Easter. That means we are about half way through Lent. Are you keeping your Lenten duties? Is it difficult? If not, then add to it. After all, it is supposed to be a sacrifice.
Forgiveness is the reflection today. There is a great poem at the end of my reflection, that “knocked me off my horse!” Please read it, and then spread it around.
Quote or Joke of the Day:
Some people are kind, polite, and sweet-spirited until you try to sit in their pews.
Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.” (NAB Mt 18:21-22,35)
Remember Jesus’ model of the proper prayer; the Lord’s Prayer. In it, people seem to overlook, or just skim over the lines about having to forgive your neighbors, or God will not forgive you. Today, in the gospel reading, Jesus again reiterates that theme to redemption and salvation.
The reading today deals specifically, and solely, with forgiveness that Jesus’ disciples are to give to their fellow disciples who sin against them. To the question of Peters, on how often forgiveness is to be granted, Jesus answers that it is to be given without limit. Jesus further warns that His heavenly Father will give those who do not forgive the same treatment as that given to the unmerciful servant (see Matthew 18:35 for the parable). Matthew 18:21-22 corresponds to Luke 17:4, “And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him”.
Seventy-seven times is an interesting number. The number corresponds also exactly to the number found in Genesis 4:24, “If Cain is avenged sevenfold, then Lamech seventy-sevenfold”. There is a contrast to the limitless vengeance of Lamech in the Genesis text. In quoting Old Testament teachings, Jesus is demanding of His followers, His disciples, limitless forgiveness needed for the NEW covenant with God.
Like all things in your life, forgiveness is a choice. By making the choice to grant unconditional forgiveness, you will have brought yourself one step closer to living a life of fulfillment, joy, and deep inner peace.
Hillary Clinton once said that in the Bible Jesus is asked how many times you should forgive; and Jesus said “70 times 7.” Hillary wanted all in her presence to know “that she was keeping a chart.”
Life is not a scorecard. Saying I can forgive but I cannot forget, is only another way of saying, I will NOT forgive. Forgiveness should be like a cancelled note, torn in two and destroyed, so that it never can be shown again.
The last sentence of this gospel reading tells that God’s forgiveness, already given through the actions of Jesus’ mission on earth, will be withdrawn at the final judgment for those who have not imitated His forgiveness by their own actions.
To forgive is to set a prisoner free, and discover that the prisoner was actually YOU. When you forgive, you in no way change the past: but you sure do change the future! Any hatred you carry is like a burning hot ember in your heart and soul. It is far more damaging to you than to anyone else!
For my ending prayer, I would like to go outside the box. I would like to share a poem I recently came upon, titled:
He hangs on the cross,
Stretched in shrieking pain.
Sold for a fistful of silver,
Hauled from the ground
To stumble on,
Spiked through flesh and bone.
Blood oozes, shoulders scream.
Yet out of the unspeakable,
“Father, forgive them …”
Day by day, around the world,
As host is lifted, cup raised high,
We know again the “why”
Of body broken,
Blood poured out.
(from Mission Magazine September, 2009)
Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO
Franciscan Saint of the Day: St. Frances of Rome 1384-1440
Born in 1384, Frances belonged to a noble Roman family, and at the age of 12 she married another Roman noble, Lorenzo Ponziani. She would have preferred to become a nun, but obeyed her father and became an exemplary wife and the mother of three children. Soon after her marriage she fell seriously ill. Her husband called a man in who dabbled in magic, but Frances drove him out of the house in no uncertain terms. St. Alexis then appeared to her and cured her. From that time she began to be conscious of the presence and assistance of her guardian angel. He would give her a little nudge when she fell into any fault.
The Ponziani palace was in the Trastevere section of Rome, and just around the corner was the little church of San Francesco a Ripa. This church had been given in 1212 to St. Francis by the Roman lady Giacoma di Settesoli (Brother Jacoba), who in 1226 was present at the death of the Poverello. By 1414 at least, the adjoining friary was one of 34 belonging to the Observant reform movement in the First Order of St. Francis, which was begun in 1368 by Brother Paul or Paoluccio of Trinci and in the following century was promoted by such saints as St. Bernardin and St. John Capistran. It was at San Francesco a Ripa that Frances Ponziani was received into the Third Order of St. Francis; and one of the priests there, Father Bartholomew Bondi, became her spiritual director.
Living at the Ponziani palace with Frances was Vanozza, the wife of her oldest brother. She too had entertained thoughts of entering a convent before her marriage, and she joined Frances in her works of piety and charity. Together they spent hours of prayer in a disused attic or an old summer cottage in the garden. At seventeen Frances gave birth to her first son, John Baptist; and shortly afterwards her mother-in-law died. Frances was then placed in charge of the household; and she carried out her duties, not only efficiently, but also in a genuinely Christian manner. During a famine she gave away corn and wine to the poor so lavishly that her husband began to object; but when he found an empty granary miraculously filled with forty measures of wheat and an empty cask filled with wine, he allowed his wife full freedom.
Rome was invaded in 1410; and during the civil war which followed, a series of calamities befell the Ponziani family. Lorenzo, who fought with the papal troops, was wounded; and after Frances had nursed him to health, he went back to the war. John Baptist, the oldest son, was taken hostage, and did not return until peace was restored. A plague followed in the wake of the war, and Frances’ second son and a daughter died of the disease. The peasants from the wasted Ponziani farm came to Frances, begging for food. Frances heroically devoted herself to the care of the sick, the starving, and the dying, and organized a group of Roman ladies to assist her in this work. For a time she too was stricken by the plague, but after she was suddenly cured she at once resumed her works of charity.
After his death, Frances’ second son appeared to her and brought her an archangel to take the place of her guardian angel. The archangel’s light was visible to her so that she could read by it. When she committed a slight fault, the archangel would hide himself, and his light would not shine again until she had made an act of contrition.
Shortly after his return, John Baptist married a flighty young lady, who took a strong dislike to Frances. But in the midst of one of her tempers, she was afflicted with a strange illness; and after Frances’ hand calmed and cured her, she became a changed person. Frances placed the household in her care, and devoted herself henceforth entirely to works of charity in the city. In 1425, she and a half dozen other Roman ladies, her companions, were clothed as oblates of St. Benedict. This apparently did not cancel her membership in the Third Order; for, at this time she and Vanozza made a pilgrimage to Assisi, walking the one hundred miles from Rome to the city of St. Francis. Near Assisi St. Francis himself appeared to them, and provided the hungry and thirsty pilgrims with fresh, juicy pears by striking a wild pear tree with his stick.
In 1433, after Lorenzo’s death Frances and her companions founded a religious community of Oblates. There they worked and prayed for the Holy Father and the peace of Rome, for the city was once more in turmoil. Returning to this convent after a visit to her sick son, Frances suddenly became ill and was taken back to the Ponziani palace. There she died after seven days, on March 9, 1440. Pope Paul V canonized her in 1608. Her tomb is beneath the high altar in the crypt of the Roman church which is now called Santa Francesca Romana in her honor. She is honored as the principal patron of all Benedictine oblates, but she is also one of the greatest saints who wore the habit of the Third Order of St. Francis.
from: The Franciscan Book of Saints, ed. by Marion Habig,
ofm., © 1959 Franciscan Herald Press
(From http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)
Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #9:
The Virgin Mary, humble servant of the Lord, was open to His every word and call. She was embraced by Francis with indescribable love and declared the protectress and advocate of his family. The Secular Franciscans should express their ardent love for her by imitating her complete self-giving and by praying earnestly and confidently.