Forgiveness Has No Limitations

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Sept 17, 2017)

Sirach 27:30-28:7

Psalm 103:1-2.3-4,9-10,11-12(8)

Romans 14:7-9

Matthew 18:21-35

I remember when I was an elementary aged kid…. Oh yes, the good ole days when life was less complicated… back then, if someone made me mad or was mean to me… I would give them the worst possible punishment that I could dream up. Seriously, it was earth-shattering cruelness that would make anyone think twice about crossing me again. If you were mean to me, I’d look you right in the eyes and say, “you’re not invited to my birthday party.”

Yeah, I know… I was pretty extreme back then. But the funny part about it was that within 20-30 minutes of banishing them from coming to my birthday bash, I was right back playing tag with them as if nothing was wrong. But that’s what we did as kids. Someone wronged us, we told them, we calmed down, forgave them and then moved on with life.

But now as adults, what do we do when people wrong us? We pull out our smart phone, open up our favorite social media app and blast away at the person. Then we hold onto that grudge tighter than a winning lottery ticket.

Let’s now turn to today’s Gospel to see what advice Jesus gives us regarding forgiveness… spoiler alert… it’s challenging and not very popular in our modern society.

“Peter approached Jesus and asked him, ‘Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?’” I’ve often wondered why Peter uses the number 7 here. Apparently in those days, many Jews thought forgiving someone 3 times was enough. This is from Amos in the Old Testament (Amos 1:3-13) where God punished foreign nations after three transgressions. Kind of like 3 strikes and you’re out!

So Peter probably thought, if the Jews forgave 3 times, then 7 is above and beyond. Plus 7 is symbolic of “completeness” based on the creation story where God made the world in 7 days. So Peter actually had a pretty logical suggestion by using the number 7.

And what is the response from Jesus? “Jesus answered, ‘I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.’” I’m positive that when Peter heard this, he had to pick his jaw up off the ground. Forgiveness, according to Jesus, has no bounds… no limitations.

So why is Jesus putting so much emphasis on forgiveness?? Why is it so important?? Forgiveness really and truly has nothing to do with the person who wronged you. It doesn’t. But it has everything to do with healing YOU. When someone wrongs you… and you forgive them… in a sense, you are saying, “I forgive you, you no longer have control over my emotions or my life, I’m moving on to bigger and better things rather then dwelling on your drama.”

Now hopefully the person you forgave will also realize they were wrong and change their ways so as to not offend again. But sometimes you just need to wish that person well and move on with your life. Granted this can be extremely hard, especially with “big” transgressions. But that’s where you especially need to rely on God and His bigger picture for your life.

However, if you continue to harbor resentment and unforgiveness in your heart, beware, and prayerfully consider what happened to the “wicked servant” at the end of today’s Gospel. The wicked servant was granted full pardon for his wrong doing, but then refused to pardon someone who had wronged him for something lesser. The master found out and, as Jesus tells us in the Gospel, “Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”

Remember, forgiveness has no bounds according to Jesus. When someone wrongs you, you’re allowed to get mad. You’re allowed to “uninvite them from your birthday party.” But at some point you need to offer forgiveness so that YOU can heal and move on.

This is possible because God’s loving mercy is unending and overflowing.

So much so…. (walk over to the crucifix) that He did this for YOU.

And if He can do this (point to crucifix) for our sins, the least we can do is offer that same love and mercy to one another.


Time is running out

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (August 21, 2016)

Isaiah 66:18-21

Psalm 117:1,2

Hebrews 12:57,11-13

Luke 13:22-30

The clock is ticking. Time is running out. The door is closing and will soon be shut and locked… for good…

It is with this serious and urgent tone that Jesus speaks to us today through Luke’s Gospel. Jesus Christ loves you more than you could possibly ever imagine. In spite of all of our sins and shortcomings, our fears and failures, our addictions and frequent negative attitudes… He still died for YOU. Please don’t take that lightly!

Jesus suffered an unimaginable amount of pain when he was tortured and crucified. Most of the images and crucifixes we see don’t do justice for what Jesus actually went through on that Good Friday 2000 years ago. Mel Gibson’s movie, “Passion of Christ,” is probably the most accurate depiction that I’ve seen of what a scourging and crucifixion actually looked like at the hands of the Roman Empire. I personally can’t watch that movie very often because of how graphic it is. But when I do, I cringe constantly and always end up in tears.

Why then, did Jesus endure this sort of death for us? To give us life. To give us hope. To give us a chance to experience eternal love with him and our Father in heaven. And now, through His Church, Jesus gives us the opportunity to “enter through the narrow gate.” Jesus’ Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, gives us all of the resources we need to have a better relationship with God.

What, you may ask, are the resources the Church offers us? The bible, Sacred Traditions, Apostolic teachings, lives of the Saints, the Eucharist, reconciliation and forgiveness, mercy, the priesthood, baptism, marriage, confirmation, prayers, anointing, the Mass and so much more. These resources, when acted on and used properly, lead us closer and closer to the doors of heaven. They keep us focused on what’s important and strengthens our faith.

Jesus speaks to us with a sense of urgency in today’s Gospel because the gates of heaven won’t stay open forever! This is a reality that I think we fail to talk about often enough. Jesus wants us to take our faith seriously NOW and live it out NOW before it’s too late. However, we keep thinking, “Oh, I’ll get to that tomorrow” but I’m telling you, “tomorrow” is no guarantee.

And take heart, even Jesus acknowledges that this is no easy task. Jesus says, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” It takes determination. It takes learning the faith (yes, even after confirmation). It takes living on God’s terms, not our own. God gave us the sacraments, the bible, Church teachings and so forth to give us the grace we need to persevere to the end. He gave us the Saints as role models to imitate and to give us hope that if they can do it, so can we.

Through the Church, Jesus has laid out for us a road map to follow. And when we don’t use this map, it’s like slamming the door on Christ. We do this out of fear or sometimes because we think we know better. But who could possibly know better then the one who created us? Please, as the saying goes, “don’t try to reinvent the wheel.” We already know what to do; now it’s just a matter of doing it and doing it faithfully.

If we follow this road map, we will be living in a house built by God. If we do it halfway or worse, ignore the map completely, then we will be living in our own self-made house apart from God. This is the warning Jesus speaks of in today’s Gospel when He says, “I do not know where you are from.” It’s because the people knocking on His door, after it was too late, have been living away from God rather then in the house He designed.

So, like Jesus, I’m up here today trying to convey a sense of urgency for everyone to re-evaluate their lives (myself included!). Nobody is perfect. We all can improve something regarding the way we are living out our faith.

As a Deacon, I was ordained to serve Jesus Christ and His Church. I was commissioned to proclaim the truth of the Gospel. I undertook a mission to help Christians better understand Jesus Christ and the gift of salvation that He offers to each and every one of you. The last thing I want to hear on my judgment day is, “Hey Brian. You know… not bad. Not bad at all. You did the basics. For the most part you followed my teachings. But let me ask you this Deacon. How many times did you shy away from preaching the truth to my people? How many people were motivated by your preaching and by your example to turn away from sin and improve their lives?”

Kind of a scary thought, isn’t it??

So please, take this Gospel passage seriously. Get to know God better TODAY, not tomorrow, TODAY. Evaluate your life and improve the areas that may be lacking…before it’s too late.

I would hate for you to be locked out of the greatest gift of all…. Your Salvation!

Catholics Are Weird

Christ the King (November 24, 2013)

2 Samuel 5:1-3

Psalm 122

Col 1:12-20

Luke 23:35-43

Before I became Catholic in 1999, I always thought Catholics were weird. Now, after being Catholic for the past 14 years and being ordained a Deacon along the way, I know for a fact that Catholics are weird. Here’s what I mean: We love stain glass windows, candles, bells and incense. We love organ music, chanting, monks and nuns. We love rosaries, relics, statues and fancy vestments. vaticanWe love the Virgin Mary…A LOT! We love to sit, stand, kneel, genuflect and bow at Mass. We love holy water, baptizing babies, making the sign of the cross and smudging ashes on our foreheads. We promote chastity, traditional marriage, love of neighbor and support for the poor. We confess our sins to a priest, consume Jesus’ flesh and blood at Mass, pray with the Saints in heaven and support life from conception to natural death. Through the eyes of the world, these things aren’t normal!

But what makes us really weird is that we worship a King that was tortured and died like a common criminal on a cross. We then take that image, the crucifix, and hang it on the walls of our homes and churches and wear it as jewelry around our necks. crucifix-2-flashNow imagine someone who has no concept of Jesus, walks into your home and sees a crucifix for the first time. They see a tortured, beaten and bloody body wearing a crown of thorns. They see a half naked man suspended on woods beams with nails through his hands and feet. Then they turn to you and ask, “Who is that?” Your response, “That is Christ, our King.”

So I guess being Catholic means we have to be a little weird in the eyes of the world. Are you OK with that? It’s taken me a long time, but I’m finally to the point in my life where I don’t care if others think I’m “that weird Catholic.” The thing that has helped me to accept my “weirdness” is through studying the lives of the Saints and seeing how they have offered up their sufferings to God. Countless men and women have suffered for their faith in the form of persecution, torture and death in the name of God. If ever I begin to doubt the existence of Jesus as my King, I read about the early Saints and erase all doubt. They were some of the weirdest Catholics I’ve studied. The Apostles gave up everything to follow Jesus and, except for St. John, were killed for their beliefs. Men, women and children were fed to lions for being Christians. They were either completely insane, or understood that Jesus was truly who He claimed…the Son of God, our True King.

But not all of those killed for their faith were from the early church. One such Catholic I recently studied was Jose Sanchez del Rio. He was a 14-year-old boy in Mexico who died on February 10, 1928.


Why was he so weird? Listen to how silly this boy was. Jose lived in Mexico during a time of severe persecution of the Catholic Church from the Mexican Government. He wanted to join the rebel forces so he could have the opportunity to give his life for Jesus and, in his words, “go to Heaven easily.” Jose became the flag bearer for a troop of Catholic rebels and was captured during a battle. The enemy commander demanded that Jose renounce his faith under threat of death. Jose refused. He was forced to witness the hanging death of another Catholic in hopes to scare him into renouncing his faith. Instead, Jose encouraged the man and said they would soon meet again in heaven. In frustration, the commander cut the bottom of Jose’s feet and had him march around barefoot outside. If he wasn’t walking fast enough, they would jab him with a machete. As they marched him around, they told him all the torture would end and his life would be spared is he simply say 5 words, “Death to Christ the King.” Jose replied, “I will never give in. Long live Christ the King.” Jose was then marched to an open grave and stabbed with bayonets. As he laid on the ground about to die just before the commanding officer shot him, he had just enough strength to draw a cross in the dirt out of his own blood and kiss it. Weird right??? He chose a painful death rather than speak 5 simple words.

The story of this 14-year-old martyr, especially when read in light of today’s Gospel from Luke, teaches us a lot about suffering and what happens when we unite it with Jesus’ suffering on the cross. Jesus was being crucified with two other criminals. It is interesting to note that the people walking by and one of the other criminals being crucified were all mocking Jesus. “Hey tough guy, what are you going to do now? You got yourself into this mess, let’s see you get out of it.” “Hey, what about me? Get me down from here!” They wanted to get a response out of Jesus but what they got was silence. That’s when the so-called “good thief” does something really weird. He acknowledges that his punishment fits his crime. He actually owns up to his sinful past. Then rather then asking for the pain and suffering to stop, he unites it with that of Jesus and pleads for mercy. Only then does Jesus speak using the words we all long to hear, “today you will with me in Paradise.” Why does God allow pain and suffering you ask? I don’t know…maybe he is trying to get your attention and help you to a point of conversion like the “good thief.” And when you accept it and unite it to the cross, you will definitely get His attention!


So you see, you have to be a little weird to be a follower of Christ. You may be looked at differently because of your beliefs. You may have to suffer from time to time. You may even be called to lay down your life for the faith. But remember, earth is NOT our final destination. So no matter what trials we may go through here on earth, it will pale in comparison to the joys of heaven. So always keep your eyes focused on Christ. He is our King. He is our Everything.