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September 17, 2020

The Sixteenth 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 Lord God, merciful judge, You are the inexhaustible fountain of forgiveness. Replace our hearts of stone with hearts that love and adore You, that we may delight in doing Your will, through 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 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.

September 21  St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist
Matthew appears in the Gospels as a tax collector for the Roman government in the city of Capernaum. He was probably born in Galilee of a Jewish family, although the Jews of the day despised tax collectors as traitors and collaborators with the Roman oppressors and generally excluded them from the activities of the Jewish community. Pious Pharisees refused to marry into a family who had a tax collector as a member. Yet in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus notes that it was the tax collector rather than the prideful Pharisee who prayed an acceptable prayer, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner”, and went home justified.
       In the Gospels of Mark and Luke, Levi, not Matthew, is called to discipleship, but Matthew always appears in the lists of the twelve disciples. In Mark and Luke, Matthew and Levi do not seem to be regarded as the same person; Origen and others distinguished between them as well. However, it is sometimes suggested the Levi was his original name and that Matthew, which in Hebrew means “gift from God”, was given to him after he joined the followers of Jesus. Mark calls him the son of Alphaeus, a man otherwise unknown and apparently not the Alphaeus who was the father of James the Less.
       Since the second century the authorship of the first Gospel has been attributed to Saint Matthew. The name Levi does not appear in this Gospel, and in the list of the twelve disciples the name Matthew, who is identified as “the tax collector” (“publican” in older translations), comes after that of Thomas, which it precedes in the other New Testament lists.
       Little is known of Saint Matthew’s life beyond the story of his call, when at the word of Jesus he left his desk and devoted himself to following Jesus. Tradition suggests that he was the oldest of the twelve disciples (and of the later Twelve Apostles). The fourth-century bishop and historian Eusebius writes that after the Ascension Matthew preached for fifteen years in Judaea and then went to foreign nations. Socrates Scholasticus writes that he labored in Ethiopia. Ambrose of Milan sends him to Persia and Isidore of Seville to the Macedonians, while others hold that he
preached among the Medes and the Persians. Heracleon writes that Matthew died a natural death, but later tradition makes him a martyr, dramatizing his death by fire or the sword.

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