Forgiven, Forgotten, Forever 9-17-2017

September 14th, 2017

When I was doing research for this homily on forgiveness I came
across a very interesting story about Abraham Lincoln.
When Mr. Lincoln was campaigning for the presidency, one of his
arch-enemies was a man named Edwin Stanton. For some reason
Stanton hated Lincoln. He used every ounce of his energy to degrade
Lincoln in the eyes of the public. So deep-rooted was Stanton’s hate for
Lincoln that he uttered unkind words about his physical appearance, and
sought to embarrass him at every point. But in spite of this, Lincoln was
elected the sixteenth president of the United States of America.
Then came the period when Lincoln had to select his cabinet,
which would consist of the persons who would be his most intimate
associates in implementing his programs. He started choosing men here
and there for the various positions.
The day finally came for Lincoln to select the all-important post of
Secretary of War. Can you imagine whom Lincoln chose to fill this post?
None other than the man named Stanton. There was an immediate uproar
in the president’s inner circle when the news began to spread. Advisor
after advisor was heard saying, “Mr. President, you are making a
mistake. Do you know this man Stanton? Are you familiar with all the

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ugly things he said about you? He is your enemy. He will seek to
sabotage your programs. Have you thought this through, Mr. President??
Mr. Lincoln’s answer was terse and to the point: “Yes, I know Mr.
Stanton. I am aware of all the terrible things he has said about me. But
after looking over the nation, I find he is the best man for the job.” So
Stanton became Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of War and rendered an
invaluable service to his nation and his president.
Not many years later Lincoln was assassinated. Many laudable
things were said about him. But of all the great statements made about
Abraham Lincoln, the words of Stanton remain among the greatest.
Standing near the dead body of the man he once hated, Stanton referred
to him as one of the greatest men who ever lived and said, “He now
belongs to the ages.”
If Lincoln had hated Stanton both men would have gone to their
graves as bitter enemies. But through the power of forgiveness Lincoln
transformed an enemy into a friend. One simple act of forgiveness can
change people’s lives. Are there any Stanton’s in your life right now?
Some years ago, a pastor in Boston was being harassed by a
woman in his congregation. She started false rumors about him. She
wrote vicious letters about him to his bishop and others. She initiated
petitions to have him removed. After several months of this, the woman

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moved to another city and not long afterward was converted to Christ.
Part of the process of her conversion was to realize the terrible wrong
she had done and all the pain and suffering she had inflicted on her
pastor in Boston. Consequently, she wrote him a long letter explaining
what had happened to her and how deeply she regretted what she had
done to him. The pastor immediately sent her a telegram with three
words on it: Forgiven, Forgotten, Forever.
Is there someone we/you/me need to say those words to and mean
them? Forgiven, Forgotten, Forever or do we want to live life like that
trapped rattlesnake filled with resentment and bitterness and bite
ourselves to death! I hope not.

Let It Go 9-10-2017

September 9th, 2017

All of us at times get hurt by other people. The question is, how
do we react when we are wronged, especially be someone we love,
someone very close to us. I see three pretty common reactions. I have
done them all.
A. I call it the Clam Reaction. We clam up. We refuse to discuss
it. We give the other person the cold, icy treatment. Our body language
gives it away–our arms wrapped around us. Anything wrong? No!
Psychologist’s call this passive hostility. When a person finally lets
things out there is, many times, an awful explosion. This explosion goes
everywhere.
B. The “Grumble and Complain” reaction. We grumble, we
complain. We gossip about the injustice that has been done to us, to
everyone else except the person involved. We bask in the sympathy we
milk out of people. We tell them what awful things that awful old so and
so did to a wonderful person like me.
C.. The Blow the Person Away Reaction. We demolish the other
person. We launch a frontal attack. How he/she wronged us and we let
everyone know that when it comes to hurting another human being, we
are number 1. We show the other person we can be more unjust,
bigoted, inflexible and hostile than they were to us.
I think our gospel today offers us an alternative reaction:
Someone wrongs us. Go to that person. Talk with them. Point out the
fault. Deal with it. Keep it between the two of you.
If that doesn’t work, call in someone with some wisdom and sensitivity
and let them help, if that relationship is important, we don’t want to lose
it.
If that doesn’t work, stop thinking about it. Let it go. Stop giving
it power over us, to destroy, to mess up your life. Sounds simple..hard to
do, oh yes.
I close with a real life example of what I am talking about.
One day a seven year old was riding in the back seat of the family
car. He was sitting between his older brother and sister. His mother was
driving.
On this day the mother was feeling especially distraught over
recently being abandoned by their father. Suddenly in a fit of anger she
spun around and slapped the seven year old across the face. “And you, I
never wanted you. The only reason I had you was to keep your father.
But then he left anyway.”
The scene branded itself on the boy’s memory. Over the years his
mother reinforced her feelings toward him by constantly finding fault
with him. Years later the son was able to tell his counselor, “I can’t tell
you how many times in the last twenty-three years I relived that
experience. Probably thousands.”
He continued, “but recently I put myself in my mother’s shoes.
Here she was, a high school graduate with no skills, no job, no money
and a family to support. I realized how lonely and depressed she must
have felt.
“I thought of the anger and the pain that must have been there.
And I thought of how much I reminded her of the failure of her young
hopes. And so one day I decided to visit her and talk to her. I told her
that I understood her feelings and that I loved her just the same.
“She broke down and we wept in each other’s arms for what
seemed like hours. It was the beginning of a new life for me, for her—
for both of us.”
Let it go! Sounds simple, hard to do, oh yes, but oh so healthy. Lord
help us.

Easy Does It? 9-3-2017

September 3rd, 2017

A young man, eager to make it to the top, went to a “success in business” seminar taught by a wealthy tycoon. “What’s the reason for your phenomenal success?” he asked.
Back came the answer, in a gravelly voice: “Hard work!”
“Uh, well, what’s the second reason?”
It’s natural to find the easy way to do things. Book stores sell thousands of “easy” books. Spanish Made Easy, Five Easy Steps to a Better Vocabulary, Easy Does It, Eat What You Want and Lose Weight. Looking for the easy way may be natural, but today Our Lord warns us that about really important things, the easy way isn’t the best way. The easy way isn’t always the right way.
Perhaps the harshest words that ever came out of the mouth of Jesus were aimed at his friend for counseling him to take the easy way. The scripture says Jesus turned on Peter, turning on someone…what a phrase, and said, in new Testamentese: “Simon, get the blank out of here. Your advice of taking the easy way, avoiding the cross, eliminating pain at any cost, is a dangerous temptation that might make me fall. I don’t need people around me that only judge by the world’s standards. The easy way is not always the right way.”
Many of you here with some years experience know that what Jesus says is true! Success in life requires a willingness to resist the lure of the easy way. A sound body requires that you exercise, eat the right foods, and conquer bad habits. A sound mind requires that you read, that you observe, that you continually learn, instead of resting on a handful of pet convictions handed down from grandma and grandpa and never expanded or enlarged. A sound marriage requires that each partner goes into it with the understanding that marriage is not a 50/50 proposition, but a 70/30 one, in which both partners give 70. A sound family means that we will take the time to be sensitive to the needs of our children, that we provide not only for their physical needs, but their emotional and spiritual needs as well. Such goals require sacrifice, they require perseverance…Every one of us knows that the path to personal success is the path of self denial. And why should we do this unnatural thing, take the hard way, pick the cross, say no to our inclination to ease. Because our Lord has loved us the hard way, the godly way, the right way; no one who looks on that cross would ever complain when God asks us to sometimes take the hard way. After all, Jesus did not come to make life easy. Jesus came to make human beings great People of Faith!