Correction and Forgiveness

Luke 17: 1-6

Wis 1: 1-7 / Ps 139If 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

The very first verse of the Book of Wisdom (1st reading) says: “Love justice, you who judge the earth; think of the Lord in goodness, and seek Him in integrity of heart” (Wis.1:1). It is a wise man who can judge and admonish another who is opposed to justice, or who violates the integrity of others by leading them to sin. 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 transgressions, be sorry for them, and stop doing them.  As Christ’s followers, it is our duty to ‘point it out’, to ‘reprove, to correct.’  Jesus always rebuked those who were in the wrong. He expects that we follow His example.

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? The apostles found this command to forgive several times hard to fulfill, and said to Jesus, “Lord, increase our faith!”  Like His apostles, we will 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.

Those who have the kind of faith that Christ teaches will find it in their hearts 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 those holy words in mind, we can forgive all the wrongs done to us because in most instances, our offenders may not really be fully aware of what they are doing.

Father God, thank you for the lessons that we learn from Your Gospel that help us become responsible Christians.  Being human we may be 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.  Grant us the wisdom to be able to correct the wayward, especially those who lead others astray because of the error of their teachings or bad example. Give us the courage to be steadfast in opposing all forms of injustice.  Amen.

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