'They had died hand-in-hand praying for and forgiving one another.' Sunday Reflections, 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A


St Peter in Penitence


Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel Matthew 18:21-35 (English Standard Version Anglicised)

Then Peter came up and said to Jesus, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”



The Misa Criolla, by Argentinian composer Ariel Ramírez (1921-2010), is a Mass for tenor, chorus and orchestra, is based on folk genres such as chacareracarnavalito and estilo pampeano, with Andean influences and instruments. It is also one of the first Masses to be composed in a modern language. Ramírez wrote the piece in 1963-1964. 'Kyrie eleison', is translated into Spanish here as 'Señor, ten piedad de nosotros', 'Lord, have mercy on us'. Here it is sung in St Peter's Basilica during a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, 12 December 2014.  

Fr Werenfried van Straaten OPraem
'The Bacon Priest' [Wikipedia]

Today's gospel brings us in touch with what is perhaps its most difficult demand: to forgive. El Greco's painting shows us St Peter praying with hope and trust in God's merciful and forgiving love. The setting by Ariel Ramírez of the Kyrie expresses the same thing. 

Two examples come to mind. One is that of Fr Werenfried van Straaten OPraem (1913-2003), about whom I posted on 6 June 2011. A Dutchman, he appealed to his fellow Dutch citizens who had suffered greatly from the Germans during World War II to help German refugees after the war by supplying food and other necessities. He was also deeply concerned about the spiritual welfare of the refugees. His request, especially to those who had family members killed by German soldiers, pushed some of his listeners to the limit. But they acted according to today's gospel and found hatred and anger replaced by pity and love.


Another is an extract from a letter of Fr William Doyle SJ, an Irish priest who died in August 1917 while serving as a chaplain in the British Army in World War I. The extract is taken from a post in a wonderful blog called Remembering Fr Willie Doyle SJ.

Father Doyle writes to his father in Dublin about events of 5 September 1916 during the Battle of the Somme:

In the bottom of one hole lay a British and a German soldier, locked in a deadly embrace, neither had any weapon, but they had fought on to the bitter end. Another couple seemed to have realised that the horrible struggle was none of their making, and that they were both children of the same God; they had died hand-in-hand praying for and forgiving one another. A third face caught my eye, a tall, strikingly handsome young German, not more, I should say, than eighteen. He lay there calm and peaceful, with a smile of happiness on his face, as if he had had a glimpse of Heaven before he died. Ah, if only his poor mother could have seen her boy it would have soothed the pain of her broken heart.

To Father Doyle no German soldier was an enemy. Indeed, one of the remarkable things in the literature that came out of the Great War is that soldiers didn't seem to have hatred for the official 'enemy'. It was more often against their own generals and bullying corporals. Photos and videos from the war show prisoners of war, especially wounded ones, being treated with the same kindness and consideration as others.
Father Doyle's description of the British and German soldiers holding hands in death illustrates poignantly and powerfully what Jesus asks of us. 

Amazing Grace
Words by John Newton

This song came out of John Newton's experience of God's mercy when shipwrecked off the coast of County Donegal, Ireland, in 1748. He was involved in the Atlantic slave trade at the time and continued to be for some more years when he began to work for the abolition of slavery and became an Anglican priest. And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.

The Lord Bless You and Keep You
Composed by John Rutter
Sung by the Batavia Madrigal Singers (Indonesia)

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace (Numbers 6:24-26).

Madonna of Mercy
Blessed Fra Angelico [Web Gallery of Art]

Extraordinary Form of the Mass

Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) 

This Sunday, 13 September, is the Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost in the calendar that uses the TLM. The complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 9-13-2020, if necessary).


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