SUNDAY 27 August 2017, 21st Sunday
• Isaiah 22:19-23 6-7 • Psalm 138 • Romans 11:33-36, • + Matthew 16:13-20 •
[__01__] In the 19th century, and later in the 1990’s, Les Miserables became quite the sensation, a French Revolution story of justice and heroism.
In a famous secene from Les Miserables, the silverware – all the knives, the forks, the spoons – are stolen by a visitor to the parish rectory in a small town in France.
The thief is Jean Valjean, the victim of the crime is the local Catholic bishop/priest who welcomed Jean Valjean as a guest into the rectory for dinner and a night’s rest.
The bishop was actually warned not to feed Jean, not to take him in. He does so anyway.
Jean Valjean enjoys a delicious meal and then has a night’s rest in a guest room.
The next morning, the housekeeper is searching for the basket for the silverware. The bishop is working in his garden, outside the house and says…Oh, here it is. And, he retrieved the basket from one of the flower-beds.
And, the housekeeper is relieved at first.
Then she asks. But this is empty, where is the silver.
So, it’s the silver you are worrying about, I cannot help you with that.
Then, he reminds the housekeeper, In the first place, was it really ours?
►►► When we think of possessions and property, we naturally think of ownership and rights. Making a donation out of love, we share… In our minds and in our bank accounts, we know what belongs to us.
In our minds, we also know – by whom – we may have been offended or hurt or “trespassed against.”
We recognize trespassers on our front lawn. We recognize trespassers who offend us in other ways.
The Gospel is reminding us to forgive because MERCY is a gift that we all share. It is not ours to hold on to …but to give away. ◄◄◄
[__02__] The visitor and guest – Jean Valjean – is suspected from the beginning. He did not stick around for breakfast but left in the middle of the night. A short time later, that morning, the police haul him into the rectory. The silverware is in his knapsack.
At this point, the bishop says to him… why didn’t you take the candlesticks too. I told you to take it all …
This, of course, leaves the housekeeper and the police dumbounded.
Jean VAljean is also confused, but relieved.
The bishop tells him, “Do not forget, do not ever forget, that you have promised me to use the money to make yourself an honest man.”
Hugo writes further: [Jean] Valjean, who did not recall having made any promise was silent.
It seems that another person made this promise for him.
This also reminds us that within FORGIVENESS and MERCY is always a challenge to the sinner – to you and to me – to convert ourselves to God’s goodness.
Forgiveness is a challenge not a license.
►►►By word and example, promises are also made for us. Mothers and fathers not only register their children for school but also promise compliance, behavior, homework…
Mothers, fathers, godmothers, godfathers – at baptism – promise – make a profession of faith – for their children.
In this regard, when we make a promise or commitment, we are also promising to set an example, to teach others by what we say and do.
Firefighters and emergency personnel in Texas promise to care for their community and people in the recent hurricane, storm, on the Gulf of Mexico coast. The government may promise to care for them. But, it will take the individual witness – and teaching – of many to complete the lesson… to complete the protecti of lives, homes …and to do the homework… ◄◄◄
[__03__] In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus speaks to Peter and the apostles about the forgiveness of sins:
“whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven, whatever you bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven.” (Matthew 16:___)
Sometimes, we think of forgiveness in terms of a transaction, maybe similar to paying RENT, or borrowing money.
That is, I am forgiven of my debts as long as I pay everything back. I will own my home as long as I pay off the mortgage. Then, I will not have this burden on me.
And, sin – and sinfulness – is also a burden.
[__04__] However, isn’t it true that you and I have been “forgiven” in certain instances, even when we realized only much later our faults and failings.
Jean Valjean is on a journey toward forgiveness and mercy.
But, he is not yet ready to make a promise.
Someone else has to make the promise for him.
The person from whom he stole made the promise.
Jesus speaks about forgiveness as more than relief but rather as a relocation.
In the Gospel of John, we read: “In my father’s house, there are many mansions. If not, I would have told you, because I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2)
Or, we might say that he makes the promise for us, a promise of mercy, even before we ask.
[__05__] You and I are called to recognize those times when we are lost, alone, in need of God’s help,when we need not only to be forgiven but also to be taken back or relocated.
The journey of Valjean in Les Miserables unfolds in many episodes of relocation and rescue
Or we might need to consider, to pray for, whom we might be called to forgive – take back – so that we can be the allies and apostles of our Savior extending mercy to others.[__fin__]