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September 13, 2020

The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus invites us to forgive one another. His invitation, however, is not an optional activity for Christians. It is the heart of the gospel and the distinctive character of Christian life. Out of love for us in our weakness and sin, God forgives us, heals us, and strengthens us to be a forgiving people. The sign of the cross invites us to the ministry of reconciliation in word and sacrament. The cross, marked on our foreheads at baptism and traced over our bodies at the funeral liturgy, assures us of Christ’s victory over death and the promise of eternal life.

O God, You declare Your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity. Grant us the fullness of Your grace, and replace our hearts of stone with hearts that love and adore You, that we may delight in doing Your will; through Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Genesis 50:15-21
Psalm 103:8-13
Romans 14:1-12

Matthew 18:21-35

Festivals and Commemorations this week

The faithful are remembered on the day of their death, the day they are born anew in heaven. The "c" indicates an approximate date.

September 13  John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, 407
John was a priest in Antioch and an outstanding preacher. His eloquence earned him the nickname “Chrysostom” (“golden mouth”) but it also got him into trouble. As bishop of Constantinople he preached against corruption among the royal court. The empress, who had been his supporter, sent him into exile. His preaching style emphasized the literal meaning of scripture and its practical application. This interpretation stood in contrast to the common style at the time, which emphasized the allegorical meaning of the text.

September 14  Holy Cross Day
Helena, the mother of Constantine, made a pilgrimage to Israel to look for Christian holy sites. She found what she believed were the sites of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus, sites that modern archaeologists believe may be correct. Here Constantine built two churches. The celebration of Holy Cross Day commemorates the dedication of the Church of the Resurrection in 335.
    This day gives the church a chance to celebrate the victory of the cross with a festivity that would be out of place on Good Friday. Today alleluias are sung in thanksgiving for the tree of the cross, which Andrew of Crete described as “the trophy of God’s victory.” This week sing the hymn “Lift high the cross” (LBW 377).

September 16  Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, martyr, c. 258
Cyprian worked for the unity of the church and cared for his flock in North Africa during a time of great persecution. During Cyprian’s time as bishop many people had denied the faith under duress. In contrast to some who held the belief that the church should not receive these people back, Cyprian believed they ought to be welcomed into full communion after a period of penance. Cyprian insisted on the need for compassion in order to preserve the unity of the church. His essay “On the Unity of the Catholic Church” stressed the role of bishops in guaranteeing the visible, concrete unity of the church. Cyprian was also concerned for the physical well-being of the people under his care. He organized a program of medical care during a severe epidemic in Carthage.

September 17  Hildegard, Abbess of Bingen, 1179
Hildegard lived virtually her entire life in convents, yet was widely influential within the church. After an uneventful time as a nun, she was chosen as abbess of her community. She reformed her community as well as other convents. Around the same time, she began having visions and compiled them, as instructed, in a book she called Scivias. Hildegard’s importance went beyond mysticism. She advised and reproved kings and popes, wrote poems and hymns, and produced treatises in medicine, theology, and natural history. She was also a musician and an artist. 

September 18  Dag Hammarskjöld, peacemaker, 1961
Dag Hammarskjöld was a Swedish diplomat and humanitarian who served as Secretary General of the United Nations. He was killed in a plane crash on this day in 1961 in what is now Zambia while he was on his way to negotiate a cease-fire between the United Nations and the Katanga forces. For years Hammarskjöld had kept a private journal, and it was not until that journal was published as Markings that the depth of his Christian faith was known. The book revealed that his life was a combination of diplomatic service and personal spirituality, a combination of contemplation on the meaning of Christ in his life and action in the world.
    To commemorate Hammarskjöld, pray for the work of the United Nations and for all peacemakers. Here is an example of a person whose quiet contemplation led to visible action in the world.


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