Sunday, March 3, 2019

8th Sunday OT @ St. Apollinaris Parish

MARCH 3, 2019

Fr. Ubald Rugirangoga (Roo-ji-ron-go-gah), Cyangugu (Cyan-goo-goo), Rwanda. He was ordained 35 years ago, just prior to the devastating genocide in his home country. At that time, the Hutus savagely slaughtered their Tutsi neighbors during the Rwandan Civil War. For Fr. Ubald, this was even more disturbing as his parish consisted of both Hutus and Tutsis, and he himself was an ethnic Tutsi.

In only 100 days, 800,000 people were senselessly killed.

Fleeing for his life in the dark of night, he found himself in Europe. He was to discover that 80 members of his family had died in the conflict.

While at the famous healing Shrine in Lourdes, he heard Jesus tell him:
Ubald, carry your cross.
Fr. Ubald understood that “forgiveness” was the cross he was to carry, and indeed this is the secret to receiving the fullness of God’s grace, mercy, and love. In that moment he was transformed in his heart, and became an Apostle of Forgiveness.

Too often, people hold grudges against others for long periods of time – and this is like drinking poison, hoping to it will kill somebody else. But instead it kills the divine life within a Christian who does not forgive.

Fr. Ubald’s life and message is documented in the movie titled “Forgiveness: The Secret of Peace,” and a book, to be released next week, titled “Forgiveness Makes You Free.

In his book, he outlines five spiritual choices to draw us to Christ:
1. Gratitude and Faith,2. Choosing to Forgive,3. Rejecting Evil,4. Choosing to Live for Jesus, and5. Claiming God’s Blessing.
But we need to realize that in making a choices, we are not passive observers. Rather we must engage our entire being – heart, mind, and soul – in order to truly receive freedom in Christ Jesus.

Today is the 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Our readings focus on seeking balance between what we are inside versus what appearance we put on in public. We hear in the first reading “The fruit of the tree shows the care it has had,” and Our Lord reminds us in the Gospel: “A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, / but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil.

Elsewhere in St. Paul’s writings we hear: “all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.

And indeed, as we approach Lent in three days, it is important to seriously examine ourselves in the light of God’s glory.

In the Greek Church – that is the Byzantines in our Church and the Orthodox – today is “Forgiveness Sunday.” At the end of the evening service of prayer, the priest says to the people:
Forgive me, a sinner.
And the people reply:
God forgives, and so do I.
Then the people say to the priest:
Forgive me, a sinner.
And he replies:
God forgives, and so do I.

And then the people turn to the person on their left or right and do the same one-on-one.
Forgive me, a sinner.
God forgives, and so do I.
As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ ... let us, in receiving the divine gift of grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness ... resolve to “pay it forward.” The forgiveness we receive in the Sacraments must not stop with us. Nor can the other gifts of love, grace, and mercy be hoarded.
Forgive me, a sinner.
God forgives, and so do I.