24th Sunday in Ordinary time

“ Do not let the sun go down on your anger”

No doubt many of you heard your mother or father say that to you as children, when God forbid, you or your brothers and sisters were fighting or squabbling.

This Sunday’s Readings highlight for us the dangers of anger and resentment and the freedom and courageous act of forgiveness. The first reading from Ecclesiasticus states strongly that “ resentment and anger are foul things”. If we hold on to anger we have no room for, nor can we expect freedom and compassion. St Paul reminds us that our lives are intertwined with all life. As a human species we are all one, so who we are and what we do affect every living thing.

I love Peter’s statement in the Gospel. One can imagine Peter thinking he is great, saying to Jesus “ Lord, how often must I forgive my brother (sister) if he wrongs me? As often as seven times ? Jesus knocks the wind out of his sails by answering “ not seven, I tell you, but seventy- seven times. That is four hundred ninety times, a far cry from seven. Jesus understands our humanity and that in a day we can go through all the range of emotions, thoughts, reactions and actions. So in a day we can have the need to forgive and be forgiven; to be compassionate or mean spirited. The choice is ours. The challenge to self awareness, to the recognition of our oneness is before us daily. Maya Angelou, who suffered with her people writes


“You can’t forgive without loving
And I don’t mean sentimentality.
I don’t mean mush. I mean having
Enough courage to stand up and say,
I forgive . I’m finished with it.”

When Steve Beko was tortured and murdered at the height of the Apartheid System in South Africa, his body was returned to his home in Port Elizabeth. His elderly mother came to look upon her courageous and heroic son. What did she do as she entered the room? In a loving Gesture, she greeted and shook hands with the soldiers on guard. What a forgiving, loving Gesture..

We are all one in our humanity, our kinship, our life. In this month for Creation we pray:

God who inhabits the beauty and vulnerability of the world,
Forgive us;
And in your generous love
Help us to work with you
For the renewal of the earth.”
                                                                                                          Jan Berry

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Helen Mary Harmey, OP