Forgiveness and Faith


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

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

Believe firmly in God’s forgiveness,
And discover what compassion means.
Forgive fully and be a witness
To God’s power to erase all sins.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to sin will inevitably occur, but woe to that person through whom they occur. 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 am sorry,’ forgive him.” The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” He replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Luke 17: 1-6)

Reflection

In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us about the inevitability of being tempted to sin, or being the cause of it. He also wants us to correct the errant and to forgive the penitent. And to employ our faith to be forgiving. In his epistle, St. James wrote that man’s temptation to sin comes from within, and not from the world. “. . . each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own evil desire, (emphasis mine). Then desire conceives, and gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (Jam.1:14-15). Satan is the master of deception, devising ways to make us believe that what we do may not really be sinful. If we tolerate wrongdoing, or condone the sinful acts of the ignorant or innocent (“the little ones”), then we are a little less than the prince of lies. It is every Christian’s duty to correct and censure those who are in the wrong, and to forgive those who are sorry for it.

The Holy Spirit has equipped us with a discerning conscience which tells us that in case of doubt, don’t. It is when we do not listen to that voice of conscience, and does it anyway because it satisfies our desire that we fall into sin. Fortunately, in His love and goodness, God has provided a way for sinners to start again on a clean slate. We only need to have a change of heart and repent of our sins, and we will receive His forgiveness.

God, however, expects us to forgive the faults of others too, just as we have received His forgiveness for all our own wrongdoing. The only way to release our neighbor from the bondage of his sin is to forgive him fully if he is penitent. The grace of God’s forgiveness will make him realize his mistake and repent of it. Besides, a forgiving soul atones for his own sins. Forgiveness frees us from our own inequities. Once we have forgiven our transgressor, God will give us the grace that will rehabilitate us completely from our addiction to sin. Thus are we renewed, and become part of God’s healing power.

The apostles must have realized the difficulty of forgiving a sinful brother “seven times in a day,” and so asked Jesus to increase their faith to be able to do so. Those who do not have the kind of faith that Christ teaches will find it almost impossible to forgive their offenders. This faith is characterized by humility, patience, forbearance and long-suffering. Hanging on the cross, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk. 23:34). Keeping these holy words in mind, we can forgive wrongs done to us because in most instances, our offenders may not know what they are doing.

Father God, thank you for the lessons that we learn from Your Word that help us become responsible Christians. Being human we are prone to sin, but with your grace and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we firmly believe that we can overcome temptations, and take flight from sin. Help us in this regard, we pray. Amen.

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