Fr. Tony’s 8-Minute Homily
I Must Forgive
But I Have Many More Bridges to Build
Don't Allow Them to Turn You Again Into Their Prisoner
—Begin w/ Anecdote
I Must Forgive
Sister Helen Prejean, in her book Dead Man Walking, tells the real story of Lloyd LeBlanc, a Roman Catholic layman, whose son was murdered. When he arrived in the cane field with the sheriff’s deputies to identify his son David’s body, LeBlanc immediately knelt by his boy’s body and prayed the Lord’s Prayer.
When he came to the words: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” he realized the depth of the commitment he was making. “Whoever did this, I must forgive them, I resolved,” he later told Sr. Prejean. LeBlanc confessed that it had been difficult not to be overcome by the bitterness and feelings of revenge that welled up from time to time, especially on David’s birthday.
But for the rest of his life, forgiveness was prayed for and struggled for and won. He went to the execution of the culprit Patrick Sonnier, not for revenge but hoping for an apology. Before sitting in the electric chair Patrick Sonnier, the murderer said, “Mr. Le Blanc, I want to ask your forgiveness for what I did,” and Lloyd LeBlanc nodded his head, signaling forgiveness he had already given.
Today’s Gospel reminds us and challenges us to continue on the path to forgiveness and reconciliation.
—Begin w/ Anecdote
“But I Have Many More Bridges to Build“
The following beautiful story, “The Carpenter”, circulated through the internet, gives a glimpse on how to promote mutual and forgiving love in our community.
Once upon a time, two brothers who lived on adjoining farms fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side-by-side, sharing machinery and trading labor and goods as needed without a hitch. Then the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding and it grew into a major difference and finally, it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence. One morning there was a knock on John’s door. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter’s toolbox.
“I’m looking for a few days’ work”, he said. “Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there I could help with? Could I help you?
“Yes”, said the older brother. “I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That’s my neighbor. In fact, it’s my younger brother! Last week there was meadow between us. He recently took his bulldozer to the river levee and now there is a creek between us. Well, he may have done this to spite me, but I’ll do him one better. See that pile of lumber by the barn? I want you to build me a fence, an 8-foot fence – so I won’t need to see his place or his face anymore.”
The carpenter said, “I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails and the post-hole digger and I’ll be able to do a job that pleases you.”
The older brother had to go to town, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off for the day. The carpenter worked hard all that day – measuring, sawing and nailing. About sunset when the farmer returned, the carpenter had just finished his job. The farmer’s eyes opened wide; his jaw dropped. There was no fence there at all. It was a bridge! A bridge that stretched from one side of the creek to the other! A fine piece of work, handrails and all!
And the neighbor, his younger brother, was coming toward him, his hand outstretched. “You are quite a fellow to build this bridge after all I’ve said and done.”
The two brothers stood at each end of the bridge, and then they met in the middle, taking each other’s hand. They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox onto his shoulder.
“No, wait! Stay a few days. I’ve a lot of other projects for you”, said the older brother. “I’d love to stay on”, the carpenter said, “but I have many more bridges to build.”(
—Begin w/ Anecdote
“Don’t allow them to turn you again into their prisoner!“
When Bill Clinton met Nelson Mandela for the first time, he had a question on his mind: “When you were released from prison, Mr. Mandela,” the former President said, “I woke my daughter at three o’clock in the morning. I wanted her to see this historic event.” Then President Clinton zeroed in on his question: “As you marched from the cellblock across the yard to the gate of the prison, the camera focused in on your face. I have never seen such anger, and even hatred, in any man as was expressed on your face at that time. That’s not the Nelson Mandela I know today,” said Clinton. “What was that about?” Mandela answered, “I’m surprised that you saw that, and I regret that the cameras caught my anger. As I walked across the courtyard that day, I thought to myself, ‘They’ve taken everything from you that matters. Your cause is dead. Your family is gone. Your friends have been killed. Now they’re releasing you, but there’s nothing left for you out there.’ And I hated them for what they had taken from me. Then, I sensed an inner voice saying to me, ‘Nelson! For twenty-seven years you were their prisoner, but you were always a free man! Don’t allow them to make you into a free man, only to turn you into their prisoner!'” [Tony Campolo, Let Me Tell You a Story (Nashville: Word Publishing, 2000).]
You can never be free to be a whole person if you are unable to forgive. You see that, don’t you? There are many people who are imprisoned by their own anger, their own hurt, their own inability to let go of the past and move on. Here’s the other thing we need to see about forgiveness: THERE IS ONLY ONE PLACE YOU CAN FIND THE ABILITY TO FORGIVE. It is at the throne of Christ.
Source: Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds; quoted by Fr. Botelho
23rd Sunday of Year A
Fr. Tony started his homily ministry (Scriptural Homilies) in 2003 while he was the chaplain at Sacred Heart residence, applying his scientific methodology to the homily ministry. By word of mouth, it spread to hundreds of priests and Deacons, finally reaching Vatican Radio website. These homilies reach nearly 3000 priests and Deacons by direct email every week.
The clipart is from the archive of Father Richard Lonsdale © 2000. It may be freely reproduced in any non-profit publication.
The common theme of today’s readings is the impact of our membership in the Church on our “private” lives. Being members of the Church means we belong to the single Body of Christ and form a community of brothers and sisters in Christ. We are, therefore, the “keepers” of our brothers and sisters, for each one of us is important to all the others in our Faith community. That is why we have to be meaningfully present to, and take responsibility for, other people. Inhuman behavior against defenseless people, like child-abuse, elder-abuse or spouse-abuse, is something about which we need to be really concerned, to the point of taking appropriate action to protect the victims. This individual responsibility in a Christian society includes, as today’s readings remind us, our responsibility for each other. Perhaps the most painful obligations of watchful love are fraternal correction and generosity in forgiving and forgetting injuries
1st Reading – Ezekiel 33:7-9
In the first reading, God tells Ezekiel that he is to be a “watchman for the house of Israel,” obliged to warn Israel of moral dangers. If Ezekiel should refrain from speaking God’s word given to convert the wicked, God will hold Ezekiel responsible for the death of the wicked.
2nd Reading – Romans 13:8-10
In the second reading, St. Paul points out that the love we should have for one another should be our only reason for admonishing and correcting the sinner. Love seeks the good of the one who is loved. Therefore, we should admonish one another so that we all may repent and grow in holiness.
Gospel – Mt 16:13-20
In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches that true Christian charity obliges a Christian, not only to assist his neighbors in their temporal and spiritual needs with material help and prayer, but also to aid with correction those brothers and sisters who have damaged the community by public sin. If the erring one refuses a one-on-one, loving correction by the offended party, then the Christian is to try to involve more people: first, “one or two others,” and eventually “the Church.” Finally, Jesus mentions the efficacy of community prayer in solving such problems, for Christ is present in the praying Christian community.
Fr. Tony’s Life
23rd Sunday of Year A
We are our brother’s/sister’s keeper
Modern believers tend to think that they have no right to intervene in the private lives of their fellow believers; so they pay no heed to the serious obligation of encouraging an erring brother or sister to give up his or her sinful ways. Others evade the issue saying, “As a sinner, I don’t have the moral courage or the right to correcsomeone else.”
But Jesus emphatically affirms that we are our brothers’ keepers, and we have the serious obligation to correct one who has injured us in order to help our neighbors retain their Christian Faith and practice, especially through our model Christian lives. Have we offered advice and encouragement to our friends and neighbors and co-workers when it was needed, and loving correction in private where that was possible?
Let us admit the fact that a great part of the indifference to religion shown by our young men and women is due to lack of parental control, training, and example. If the children of Christian families grow up as practical pagans, it is mainly because the Christian Faith has meant little or nothing to their parents. It is a well-known fact that when parents are loyal to their Faith in their daily lives, their children will, as a rule, be loyal to it.
We need to gather in Jesus’ name and work miracles
Today’s Gospel reminds us of the good we can do together, and of how we can do it. Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” If any group of us will gather, work, and act with the Holy Spirit guiding us, we become much more than simply the sum of our numbers. Two becomes more than two, and three becomes more than three. The sum of our individual ideas, resources, and abilities becomes much more because of the synergy that God’s Presence provides.
In our Faith community, we act together so that we may help one another in God’s Name, thereby multiplying our resources and ability to do what God calls us to do. Today, Jesus makes it clear how important we are, one to another.
Through our links to one another in Christ, a capacity rises in our community, enabling us to draw on God’s power to make healing and life-giving love more effective among us, His people. We come together, we stay together, we work together –- in our Lord’s Name, bringing to focus the Presence of God and unleashing the power of the Spirit –- to transform our lives and the lives of all God’s children.
When we gather in Jesus’ name, the action opens our hearts to allow Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man, to be a part of us and of what we do. That is what we experience at each Eucharist—we in Him and He in us.