Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

Readings – Genesis 45: 1-15; Psalm 133; Romans 1-2a,29-32; Matthew 15: 10-28

The Prayer of the Church is the Lord’s Prayer, the “Our Father”.  Every Sunday, we pray together at the conclusion of the Great Thanksgiving, just before the climactic “Breaking of The Bread” – “The Gifts of God for the People of God”.  Morning Prayer, the Angelus, Evening Prayer, and Compline, are all built around the Lord’s Prayer.  This prayer defines who we are.  The expectation is that all people of faith include this prayer in private, daily devotions. 

Today let us give our attention to only one sentence —

And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Our reading for the Old Testament is the dramatic reunification of Joseph and his brothers.  Recall from last week’s reading that Joseph, the favorite of his father and hated by his eleven brothers, was sold to a caravan of Ishmaelites, traveling to Egypt.  The brother’s initial plan was to murder him.  Then it was decided to throw him into a dry well.  The brothers’ final resolve was to sell him for twenty pieces of silver.  Once in Egypt, Joseph is sold to Potiphar, a captain of Pharoah’s guard.  God was with Joseph, and all went well in Potiphar’s household until his wife falsely accused Joseph of rape.  Thrown into jail, God was with Joseph, and all went well so that Joseph became the chief jailor’s assistant.  While there Joseph correctly interpreted two fellow prisoners’ dreams.  God was with Joseph and he was asked to interpret two of Pharoah’s dreams.  They envisioned seven years of abundance to be followed by seven years of drought and famine.  Pharoah placed Joseph in charge of the storage of the abundance, and then the drought came.  God was with Joseph, and he managed the distribution of the grain during the drought years.  The drought brought Joseph’s brothers to Egypt to buy grain.  While he immediately recognized them, they did not recognize Joseph.  Today’s reading narrates the dramatic encounter as he self-identified, embraced them, and wept in joy.  Joseph then invited them to return to Canaan to gather up all the family to live in Egypt for the remaining five years of drought and famine. 

God was with Joseph and his response to his estranged brothers went well beyond forgiveness.  St. Paul in his writing to the small congregation in Rome identifies a new ingredient from his own life experience.  St. Paul personally knows the mercy of God.  He writes–

Just as you were once disobedient to God, but now have received mercy…

Mercy, when added to forgiveness creates reconciliation.  Joseph forgave his brothers, and with mercy was reconciled with them.  Mercy plus forgiveness creates reconciliation.  Joseph was merciful; Joseph was forgiving; Joseph wept; Joseph embraced; Joseph reconciled with his estranged brothers. 

Psalm 133 expresses it well-

v1. Oh, how good and pleasant it is when [sisters &brothers] live together in unity.                                                                                             V4. It is like the dew of Hermon that falls upon the hills of Zion.

While our story of the Canaanite woman of Tyre and Sidon does not include Jesus embracing her and inviting her to become a disciple, she receives mercy.  He pronounces, “Woman, great is your faith”.  The mercy of Jesus is extended to her and her ailing daughter. 

I think we are all challenged to take steps beyond forgiveness for those who trespass against us, no matter how great the offenses are.  In the Gospel according to St. Matthew, we find Jesus listing a few–

evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander.

They are all community-destroying behaviors. We are to first forgive, and then we are to be merciful.  As God has been forgiving and merciful with us, we are to extend forgiveness and mercy to others. 

Is forgiveness easy?  It is not.  Is forgiveness plus mercy easy?  It is not.  But we are not called to do the easy, we are called to do the challenging.  We are called to be community gatherers, to be community uniters, to be community leaders, to be community reconcilers.  We are called to be like Joseph.

Monday and Wednesday at noon I sit here in this sacred space, mostly alone, for the Angelus.  I read these words out loud from St. Paul’s letter to the small congregation in Corinth, Greece–

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away,                                 behold the new has come.  All this is from God, who through Christ                          reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.                                                                                          

II Corinthians 5: 17-18

God, out of love, forgives us our trespasses.

God, out of love, is merciful.

The God of love who forgives and is merciful feeds us this day in bread and wine, in body and blood. 

If anyone is in Christ, [she] is a new creation; the old has passed away,                         behold the new has come.  All this is from God, who through Christ                                reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.


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