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Breath of the Spirit: Change OUR Hearts

Often, we think of repentance as a precursor to being forgiven. We repent of our sins and God forgives us. However, today’s reflection broadens this scope, instead suggesting that we must also repent if we hope to forgive others.


September 17, 2023: Twenty-fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

Sirach 27:30-28:7

Psalm 103:1-2,3-4,9-19,11-12

Romans 14:7-9

Matthew 18:21-35

Change OUR Hearts

A reflection by Ann Marie Szpakowska



A change, a change has come over me.

He (Christ) changed my life and now I’m free.

He washed away all of my sins and he made me whole.

He washed me white as snow.

He changed my life complete and now I sit at his feet.

To see what must be done, and work, and work until he comes.

A wonderful change has come over me.

A wonderful change has come over me.

Change, change, I’m so glad he changed me.

He changed my walk.  He changed my talk.  He changed my life.

I’m not what I use to be.  I’m not what I want to be.

I’m so glad he changed me.

There is nobody who can do it but Christ.

Written and performed by Walter and Tramaine Hawkins, respectively (Listen here.)


Matthew begins this enigmatic parable with Peter’s question, “How often must I forgive my brother if he goes on wronging me? As many as seven times?  Jesus’s answer is “seventy times seven.” Jesus then continues with the parable of the unforgiving servant. The first servant’s debt is forgiven by the King when he pleaded for mercy—their whole debt is cancelled. Yet when confronting someone who owed him a much lesser amount, the servant refuses to offer his peer the same mercy. The king, on hearing this, confronts the servant and reinstates the punishment—torture and debtor’s prison. Here we all scratch our heads wondering how a person could earn enough in this situation to repay an enormous debt.

Though most of us are used to praying, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” we are also familiar with “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” We hear Jesus’s ominous warning: “That is how [the] heavenly [One] will deal with you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” Obviously, Jesus was not talking about finances but forgiveness. Repentance in the Scriptures was about a 180-degree turnaround. A complete reversal. During Lent we might sing:


“Change our hearts this time.  Your word says it can be.

Change our mind this time.  Your life could make us free.

We are the people your call sets apart. 

Lord, this time change our hearts.”

Written by Rory Cooney (Listen here)


As members of the LGBTQIA+ Catholic community, we are intimately acquainted with the need for mercy and forgiveness. Some of us have been rejected by family and friends, Church and Society. All of us have endured judgments and condemnations for being who we know God made us to be. Coming out to self and others remains a difficult and frightening prospect for many: our suicide statistics show us that. Too many in our community have experienced hatred and violence, and sometimes even murder. Even as we find safe spaces and affirming communities, who must we, and how do we, forgive? Can we say from our hearts as Jesus said from the Cross, “Abba, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”?

Ann Marie Szpakowska has been active and in leadership of Dignity/Buffalo for nearly 40 years. She also participates in the Women's Caucus and has been an active contributor to Liturgical planning for Dignity's Conventions, Conferences and on Feminist Liturgy Committees over many years. She has presented workshops both locally and at Dignity Conventions.

She has also been a member of St. Martin de Porres parish since 4 inner city churches merged and built a new sanctuary in 1993. St. Martin de Porres is a predominantly African American community in Buffalo, New York.

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