Not Destined for Wrath
(Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Sirach 27:30—28:7; Romans 14:7-9; Matthew 18:21-35)
Anyone wishing to interpret La Salette as an expression of God’s wrath is much mistaken. And yet, Mary’s words about the arm of her Son seem to lend themselves and, historically, have lent themselves to just such an interpretation.
It would be futile to try to deny the concept of God’s wrath. We find it in the Old and New Testaments. Still, it is invariably a passing phenomenon. According to our responsorial Psalm: ‘God does not keep his wrath forever.” Ultimately, as we read in 1 Thessalonians 5:9, “God did not destine us for wrath, but to gain salvation through Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Sirach presents wrath and anger as the typical attitude of a sinner. How can we expect forgiveness when we are unwilling to forgive? Today’s Gospel make the same point.
Our Lady told the children to say at least an Our Father and a Hail Mary, as their evening and morning prayer. Every time we say the Lord’s prayer, we ask God to forgive us as we forgive others. We thus become the norm by which we will be judged!
Forgiveness is utterly unselfish. St. Paul reminds us today that Christians do not live for themselves but for the Lord. Is it possible to live for the Lord while harboring wrath?
Jesus tells Peter not to set limits to forgiveness. Still, no one claims that forgiveness is always easy. Here is a little prayer I teach to persons who are finding it especially hard to forgive: “God, you forgive them (or him, or her), because I can’t, yet.” This ’yet’ is essential; it means that if the time comes when you know you are able to forgive, you won’t refuse to do so.
What we find in today’s readings is not God’s wrath but God’s justice. I am reminded of the prayer that we call the Memorare to Our Lady of La Salette. In today’s version we say: “Remember, Our Lady of La Salette… the care you have always taken to keep me faithful to your Son.” The original version reads, “Be mindful of the unceasing care which thou dost exercise to shield me from the justice of God.”
These are not so different, really. If we are faithful to Christ, we have nothing to fear from God’s justice.