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Faith and Forgiveness

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Isaiah 35:1-10  Psalm 84(85):9–14  Luke 5:17–26


The paralysed man is healed, not because of his own faith, but through the faith of his friends. This fascinating incident highlights that a sure knowledge and experience of forgiveness is a fundamental human need which strikes at the very core of who we are. And who are we? We are persons created in the image and likeness of God, but fallen and wounded and in need of the bitter grace of sorrow and repentance, which leads to the sweet blessing of forgiveness.


The Pharisees have to be given credit for getting to the heart of the matter very quickly indeed. They figured that no mere human being could forgive sins and that this power and grace belonged to God alone (v. 21). Many centuries later William Blake captured this idea in the way that only a great man of letters can: “There is not one moral virtue that Jesus inculcated but Plato and Cicero did inculcate before him. What then did Christ inculcate? Forgiveness of sins. This alone is the Gospel, and this is the life and immortality brought to life by Jesus.”


There is a very real way in which forgiveness is our greatest need, and when we receive God’s forgiveness our greatest response is in turn to forgive those who sin against us. At the heart of receiving God’s forgiveness is taking hold of how great is God’s mercy towards us. God delights to forgive sins and rejoices when we turn to him in sorrow and repentance. Perhaps it is because in receiving God’s forgiveness we grasp reality and come in contact with the truth that it was because of our sin, our rebellion and our waywardness that God sent his only Son.

The cost of the grace of our forgiveness and reconciliation was brought about by nothing less than the cross of Jesus. Without the cross there would be no forgiveness. In forgiving us God sets us free, and we are invited to forgive others as we have been forgiven. This is why the cross is truly a sign of forgiveness and freedom. “When Christ’s hands were naıled to the cross, he also nailed your sins to the cross” (St Bernard of Clairvaux).

On this his feast-day, we leave the last word to the wise pastor St Ambrose: 


As often as the Lord’s blood is shed it is poured out for the forgiveness of sins; so I ought to receive it always, that my sins may always be forgiven.

Chris


from Bible Alive

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Occupy your mind with good thoughts

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St John Henry Newman (Feast)

2 Timothy 1:1–5 • Psalm 95 (96) • John 15:9–17

There are two extremes into which people fall when it comes to their attitude to evil and the devil. At one end of the spectrum is to believe in the devil and evil excessively, and at the other not to believe in evil or the devil at all — with plenty of people fitting somewhere in-between!  This is as true in our age as any other, and we have ample evidence of excessive belief in innumerable blockbuster films and books and even weekend courses on the occult and demons.

We, for our part, are guided and governed by the Scriptures and the wisdom of the Church passed down through the ages. The Church has always affirmed that the devil and his realm is a reality (see, e. g. Catechism of the Catholic Church 407) which we ignore at our peril.  Jesus is the strong man who by his death and resurrection has redeemed the world.  By his cross, in his name and through his blood we who have received the grace of baptism are protected and kept safe, but we need to call upon this shield of God’s grace.

We are invited to enter into the spiritual battle which is waged every day. This notion of spiritual conflict or engaging the enemy can seem rather obscure or remote, especially when the daily  struggle to deal with the problems of this world is hard enough.  Perhaps the great saint and martyr Thomas More shed some light on' this when he said: “Occupy your minds with good thoughts, or the enemy will fill them with bad ones; unoccupied they cannot be.”  Being passive and undisciplined in our thinking and in our behaviour can open us up to the devil and his ways. The devil delights in an idleness of mind and a passivity which does not actively take up the good fight of faith.

A mind filled with God’s truth and God’s thoughts is a mind which is bolstering and protecting itself against the snares and attacks of the Evil One. God created us with the gift of free Will, and the greatest challenge we face every day is to choose God and reject the devil, to choose the good and repel evil, and to stand firm in faith.

Lord Jesus, protect us from the snares, wiles and schemes of the Evil One.  I call upon the power of your name, cross and blood, that I may live more and more in your presence.

Chris

 
 Graphic from; https://princessofjesusblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/21/gods-protection-a-true-story/

 

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Heavenly Forgiveness

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Ecclesiasticus 27:30–28:7 • Psalm 102(103):1–4, 9–12 • Romans 14:7–9 • Matthew 18:21–35

Forgive from the HeartC.S. Lewis was right on the button when he said, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.”   We pray at every Mass: ‘Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.”  Yet, when sinned against by a brother or sister, husband or wife, friend or foe, how ready are we to forgive? And how do we forgive? Reluctantly and resentfully, or readily, from the heart?

When Peter asked Jesus how often he should forgive, proposing the generous offer of ‘as many as seven times’, he was really trying to set a limit – to see how few times he could forgive and get away with it!  Jesus responded with a number which was not really a number! “Seventy-seven times” (or “seventy times seven”) signified a countless number.  Again we turn to CS. Lewis, who explained: “We forgive, we mortify our resentment; a week later some chain of thought carries us back to the original offence and we discover the old resentment blazing away as if nothing had been done about it at all. We need to forgive our brother seventy times seven not only for 490 offences but for one offence.”

As often as the sense of grievance rises hot and strong within us, Jesus challenges us to forgive.  And this forgiving is not so much about forgetting as about remembering without bitterness or acrimony in our hearts.  Jesus speaks in the context of relationships within the church family.  The closer a relationship, the more frequently and more heavily we tend to tread on one another’s toes. Our deepest hurts are not usually inflicted by our worst enemy, but by our nearest and dearest, those close to us — our friends / relatives / work colleagues.

The servant in Jesus’s parable owed 10,000 talents – this figure combines the largest Greek numeral with the largest unit of currency.  Here is not merely a daunting debt, but one that could never be repaid.  God offers us unlimited grace and inexhaustible forgiveness beyond measure, beyond our wildest dreams.  But hands clenched in unforgiving anger can neither appropriate nor appreciate this gift.  Forgiveness extended to a brother or sister is inextricably linked with the forgiveness received from our Heavenly Father.  Jesus modelled unconditional and unlimited forgiveness as he hung on the cross, not only forgiving, but also pleading for the Father’s forgiveness for those who put him there.

Heavenly Father, show me that to err is only too human, but to forgive is truly to imitate the divine.

Chris

 
Graphic from https://www.stpeterstettler.ca/looking-ahead-scripture-readings-for-sept-13-2020/
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Jesus and Self-will

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The new creation is established through Jesus’s resurrection.  Jesus himself is the first-born of God’s new creation.  When Jesus died, he took with him to the cross the sin and fallen nature of all of humanity.  
 
Humanity’s fallen nature is that nature in which the self-life has been allowed to rule and control us.  It is a nature that, in the end, cannot have union with God, because the self-life refuses to let God take central place – it is my will that I do, rather than God’s will.  Jesus, throughout his life, revealed a true human life which was completely surrendered to the will of the Father.  
 
However, the cross was necessary because the power of the self-life, and of self-will, needed to be put to death.  It was brought to an end on Calvary.
 
The resurrected Jesus is now the source of a life that is entirely one with the will of God.  For that same life to be manifested in us today, it is essential that we have union with both the death and the resurrection of Jesus.
 
The key element is our willingness to let go of the self-life and the self-will that can so dominate our lives.
 

Chris

(from Bible Alive)

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