"Forgive Us Our Trespasses"

Twenty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time, September 6, 2020

Because we are all human, we do from time to time offend others.  And because we are all human we are, from time to time, offended by others.  The question for us today is: "How do we react when someone offends us?"


You have been insulted, you have been injured, you have been embarrassed. Now. What will you do?

Historically, there are three ways of reacting.  1. You may react in a pre-religion way.  2. You may react in a pre-Christian way.  3. You may react in a Christian manner.  Let us look for a moment at the three reactions.


The first reaction: The pre-religion way. Before God made himself known to Abraham, the reaction to an offense was pure revenge.The law of revenge ruled the land.Traces of this can be found in the Bible, as in Genesis chapter four.Lamech has just killed a young boy, and he addresses his wives and says:"I have killed a man for wounding me, a boy for bruising me. If Cain is avenged seven fold, then Lamech seventy-seven fold."


The law of revenge basically says that if meone harms you then you can destroy them, massacre them.  Many people today still live by the law of revenge, even though it is pre- Christian and even pre- religion.  Examples would be: If Iraq shoots one of our planes down, then we should send over nuclear bombs to teach them a lesson.  If you run through a stop sign and wreck my car, then I should jump out and shoot you dead.  If you get caught shoplifting, you should go to jail for life.  The LAW OF REVENGE.  Get even, get more than even, fix them good.  Bomb them back to the Stone Age: nothing is too good for them.


The second reaction: The pre-Christian way.  Later on in the Bible, after God has made himself know to humanity, we find an adjustment to the pre-religious law of revenge.  The adjustment is found in Exodus 21:24: It is the famous LAW OF RETALIATION:  "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth."  This law was definitely a step forward.  Now if someone offends you, you may retaliate to the same degree.  Gone is getting even seven fold, or seventy-seven fold.  Now you simply get even.  But remember this is still pre-Christian.  Now if someone knocks out your eye, you can knock out theirs, but no more.  If someone knocks out your tooth, you can knock out theirs, but no more.  Now if Iraq shoots down one of our planes, we can shoot down one of theirs.  Now if someone wrecks your car, you can wreck theirs.  Now if someone is caught shoplifting, they need to pay for it.  The law of retaliation.


The third reaction: The Christian way.  This is found in the New Testament and is the teaching of our Lord Jesus: The LAW OF FORGIVENESS.  This is what the scriptures are about today.  If someone offends you, point it out in private and then forgive.  Our Gospel reminds us today that Jesus did NOT advocate absolute forgiveness in every instance; he does not expect us to be fools or get taken advantage of. But he did advocate sitting down and talking about the problem, and in a spirit of love reaching a settlement.  Now if a plane is shot down, we need a diplomatic conference to talk about the problem.  Now if a car is wrecked we need to call the insurance company. 


The question for us today then is: How do we react when someone offends us?

  1. The Law of Revenge? -- not Christian, not even religious, but still popular.

  2. The law of Retaliation? -- not Christian, but still poplar

  3. The law of Forgiveness? -- now we are Christian.Whether it be popular or not.


An interesting footnote: Each time we pray the Lord's prayer we pray that our lord will forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.  If we respond to an offense by the law of revenge then we are asking God to respond to us in the same way, so we better not say that prayer.  If we respond to an offense by the law of retaliation then we are asking God to respond to us in the same way.  Now we better give the Lord's prayer some serious thought.  If we respond to by the law of forgiveness, then that is how we are asking God to respond us to us.  Let us pray:


Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come; thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.


Sunday Readings

Ezekiel 33:7–9

I have appointed you as a sentinel for the house of Israel.

Romans 13:8–10

The commandments...are summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Matthew 18:15–20

[Jesus said,] “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”