7th Sunday of OT A

Toughest Teaching—Forgiveness and Love

Joke: Three very competitive priests died, but before God would let them into heaven, he gave them a chance to be anything they wanted. First priest said, “I want to come back as myself, but 100 times smarter than I already am.” So, God made him 100 times smarter. The second priest said, “I want to be even better than that priest, make me 1000 times smarter than I already am.” So, God made him 1000 times smarter. The last one decided that he would be the best. So, he said, “God make me better than both of them. Make me a million times smarter than I already am.” So, God made him a woman.

Last weekend, the Lord Jesus reaffirmed us that he has come not to abolish the law, but to fulfill the law. He came not to fulfill our jealousy, but to teach us to be aware of who we are. In today’s Gospel, Jesus points out the old law saying, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth … and you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” Jesus fulfilled these laws by saying, “offer no resistance to [the] one who is evil, [and] love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” It is not about having revenge or loving those who love us and hating our enemy, but rather to learn to forgive and to love one another, even to the one who is considered as our enemy. Why did Jesus teach to love and to pray for those who are our enemies and those who persecute us? He came to fulfill what is said in the laws reported in today’s first reading, taken from the book of Leviticus, the book of laws, saying “You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart. Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

On May 13, 1981, Saint Pope John Paul II was crossing Saint Peter’s Square in Vatican City, a gunman Mehmet Ali Agca, who had escaped from a Turkish prison after receiving a life sentence for murdering a journalist, fired four shots on the Pope. Two of those struck him in his lower intestine, one in his right arm, and one in his left index finger. Two years later, Pope John Paul II came to visit Mehmet in prison and requested that he be pardoned. In the Jubilee year of 2000, the request was granted, the gunman was released. But he was deported back to Turkey where he was imprisoned for the life sentence for decades ago. In Turkish prison, he converted to Catholicism and was finally released in 2010. In December 2014, he returned to Rome and laid two dozen white roses at the Pope’s tomb. The act of forgiveness from the leader of the Catholic Church has changed Mehmet to Catholicism.

Why did Saint Pope John Paul II forgive the gunman who tried to kill him? Not only to forgive him, but he also asked to release him, why? With the gunman, Mehmet, why did he want to kill the Pope? Had the Pope ever threatened him or hurt him and his loved ones somehow or someway? Why did he convert to Catholicism?

Saint Pope John Paul II forgave the gunman because he was a follower of Jesus Christ, a Christian, who truly followed the teaching of Jesus reported in today’s Gospel. He came to the prison to visit his gunman and asked him to be released from prison. For the gunman, his motive was to kill the Pope for some political purpose or whatever it is, but his converting to Catholic stamped from the generous act of forgiveness of Saint Pope John Paul II. The gunman said to one report, “I am killing the Pope as a protest against the imperialism of the Soviet Union and the United States and against the genocide that is being carried out in El Salvador and Afghanistan.” What’s interesting now is that after he got released from prison, cruxnow.com reported that he’s ready to become a Catholic priest if Pope Francis will welcome him in the Vatican. Vatican refused his request.

We are reminded the teachings of Saint Paul mentioned in today’s second reading in that we “are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in [us].” How could we become the temple of God when we filled our temple with what is jealousy, hatred, resentment, vengeance, and many negative feelings together with worries, anxieties, stress, and business of life that we might harbor and fill in our temple that the Lord might find difficult a place to come to reside in our temple? The gunman, Mr. Mehmet Ali Agca, harbored hatred and resentment towards others and nations that locked him into the darkest place of his soul to assassinate Saint Pope John Paul II, have we ever harbored any hatred, resentment, or angry towards others or nations, especially towards our loved ones? To unlock the cloud of darkness, the cloud of our enemy, Jesus gives us a combination to open that lock. That combination is to love them, to forgive them, and to pray for them, have we had courage and strength to love and to pray for those who hurt us and harm us? The world will be peaceful when we learn to love one another, there will be happiness in heaven when we learn to love our enemies. The decision is ours.


Weekend Homilies 2019

Homilies by Fr. Joseph Nguyen

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