Forgiveness, Correction & Faith

Luke 17: 1-6
Wis 1:1-7 / Ps 139

If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.
(Luke 17:3)

Sin is deadly, so believe firmly
Repentance is what we most need;
Forgive fully, and don’t grow weary
Serving the Lord in every good deed.

Jesus taught His disciples: “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” The apostles found this command hard to fulfill, and said to Jesus, “Lord, increase our faith!” He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”


During our running club’s lively fellowships, a friend and fellow runner had this bad habit of using cursing words in almost every other sentence he spoke. This local curse is particularly jarring to the ears because it debases the word “mother” by its association with “prostitute”. Since I knew that he was a regular churchgoer, and he once mentioned that he prayed the rosary during his long runs, I told him with all candor that “Hot and cold water cannot flow from the same pipe; since the sacred Host passes your mouth, and praying to Mother Mary through your lips, how can you curse mothers so liberally?” He was stunned, because apparently, nobody had put it to him that way before. I also cited some verses in the Bible, like Sirach 23:11, “A man who often swears heaps up obligations; the scourge will never be far from his home.” Happily, as he promised, my friend no longer swears as often as before.

Jesus tells us to “rebuke him.” We must let our neighbor know how concerned we are that because of his error, others may be led to sin. And we do not want to see him “thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck.” Our kind but firm rebuke is only intended for his own good. “Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to cause a fall” (1 John 2:10). Unless we stand up for the good and repudiate the wrong, our friend may not be aware of or recognize his/her mistakes or sins, be sorry for them, and stop doing them. As Christ’s followers, it behooves us to ‘point it out’, to ‘reprove, to correct.’ Jesus expects that from us.

Correcting a fault, however, is a lot easier than forgiving an offender, especially if he wrongs us more than once. But again our Lord teaches us that when a brother comes to us, we must be ready to forgive him as often as he repents. How can we “love our enemies” if we cannot even forgive our friends? Like His apostles, we might indeed find this almost impossible to accomplish. But as our Lord teaches us, this is possible through the power of faith. In the case of a friend who is hard to forgive, or an enemy who is hard to love, we must pray to God to increase our faith, because it is only by His miracle of grace that forgiveness can happen.

Increase our faith, Father, that we can follow Jesus’ example of forgiveness. Amen.

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