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(Part 42)


March 6, 2018

Today's readings:

Daniel 3:25-43
Psalm 25:4-9
Matthew 18:21-35

As God's people doing God's work, we are destined for greatness. God provides what is needed, the fullness of grace and the power of the Spirit. But it is also up to us, in how we respond to God's call and grace. Oftentimes, we thwart the will of God by our own shortcomings and sins.

Among our sins in community is strife among brethren and even leaders, that leads to disunity and division. The fruit of such is diminished vibrancy in communal life and reduced effectiveness in mission work. Evangelization stalls and fidelity to meetings is challenged. As such, we reap the fruit, as we are brought low everywhere in the world this day because of our sins. (Dn 3:37b). All this is the opposite of being great.

What is the way forward? Just as we look to the mercy of God, we must be merciful to each other. Given our fallen nature, we will sin against each other. But this does not have to destroy our relationships and community life. We have a way out. That is forgiveness, not seven times but seventy-seven times. (Mt 18:22).

But how can I forgive someone who has done me great wrong? We are able to do so of course by the grace of God, but also because we look not so much to the person who wronged us, but to God who has been merciful to us. This was the point of the parable of the unforgiving servant. A servant owed his master a great debt, which the master forgave; but this same servant could not forgive a much smaller debt of another servant to him (Mt 18:24-30).

We scourged Jesus and sent him to the cross but he forgave us. That was our great debt. Now we are to forgive others the way he has forgiven us. The consequence of not doing so is disastrous. God will not forgive us, and we will be unable to repay our debt. Our punishment will be endless, indeed, eternal. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart. (Mt 18:35).

What are we to do? We are to forgive from the heart. The heart is the seat of decision. Forgiveness is not an emotional act, but an act of the will. We may still feel hurt and pain, we may still struggle with resentment and anger, but we decide to do what is right, and that is to forgive. This takes humility. We do not stand on pride or on our righteous anger or our insistence that we are right and we did no wrong, but we simply look to how God has dealt with us. Imagine the King taking on our sins and going to the cross for us. He guides the humble in righteousness, and teaches the humble his way. (Ps 25:9).

We continue to ask God, Do not take away your mercy from us (Dn 3:35a). Indeed, God will continue to be merciful. But we too must act. But with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received (Dn 3:39a). We must forgive one another. We must avoid strife and division. We must be faithful to our covenant with God and with one another. Then we can look to God with trust and confidence. We can look to indeed becoming great in Christ, as God intends, knowing that “those who trust in (God) cannot be put to shame. (Dn 3:40b).

How will we be great in Christ? If we have done our part, then God will do His. God will deliver us in accord with (His) wonders (Dn 3:43a). We can accomplish great works for God, acting with signs and wonders. And, as is the ultimate goal in being great, we will bring glory to your name, O Lord (Dn 3:43b).

* * *

For to me life is Christ, and death is gain. (Phil 1:21)

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