Wednesday, 7 March 2018

I have come not to abolish the Law

Wednesday of week 3 of Lent

The way of Christ is the way of obedience. Jesus was obedient to His Father always. Today we are reluctant to obey unreservedly. Somehow it seems a backward or unsophisticated thing to do. Modern man is surely much more subtle and learned to not need to obey like that? So instead of obeying freely we reserve the right to question everything and decide whether to obey or not – and we do this even with God! We have made ourselves the masters and we do not like the idea of making someone else our master.

The way of Christ is obedience even when it means suffering. The way of Christ means saying with Our Lady, “Be it done unto me according to thy word.” The way of Christ is obedience because it is obedience to an entirely trustworthy Person – God the Father. God the Father can always be trusted. Does a father give his son a stone when he asks for bread? If our Heavenly Father allows us to suffer we can be sure there is a very good reason for it and the outcome will be good for us.

Christ Jesus came not to abolish the Jewish Law. He fulfilled the Law and the Prophets in His very self. When He died sacrificially on the cross He fulfilled and completed all the laws of ritual and sacrifice. In the New Covenant all ritual and sacrifice is focused on the Cross. The moral law of the Old Testament was not abolished but deepened. Not only was the moral law still to be obeyed in the New Covenant but it was located on a deeper and more demanding level – the level of the heart. We are to still obey the Ten Commandments but now at a much deeper and demanding level.

So are we willing to obey God the Father as Christ Jesus did? Do we trust the Heavenly Father? This was at the heart of the first sin, and thus at the heart of all sin – do I trust God the Father, or does He have a secret agenda against me? The serpent tempted Eve to believe the latter. Our Lady believed the former. She trusted and obeyed.

Fr Ian

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

The limits of forgiveness

Today Peter comes to our Lord enquiring about the limits of forgiveness. And he puts into words this very human approach to forgiveness. Forgiveness is a costly business. When we are the victim of someone else’s wrongdoing, when we have been hurt and paid a price for another’s transgression, then it is very hard to forgive. It seems like justice to say that there should be a limit to forgiveness. We should only have to go so far to forgive someone; after all it is not our fault that they sinned against us.
One thing we need to be clear about is that forgiveness is not about stopping our feelings of hurt, nor is it forgetting what has happened. We can’t of course just stop feeling hurt, nor can we just forget! What forgiveness is to do with is our heart. Our Lord’s words at the end of the gospel (Mt 18:21-end) exhort us to forgive from the heart. It is within the heart that everything is bound or loosed (see CCC 2843). It is the heart that hands itself over to the Holy Spirit that will turn hurt into compassion, and memory into intercession. Then the heart of a forgiving man shares in the victory of the cross of Christ: “Forgive them Lord, for they know not what they do.”

The parable in our gospel reading today should shock us. The enormous debt of 10,000 talents would have been millions of denarii. The unmerciful servant obtained forgiveness for his own debt but was merciless with a servant who owed him a far smaller debt. The point our Lord is making should not be lost on us. He has forgiven us much, and our Lord has done so freely and completely, requiring us only to be repentant, but in fact there is another aspect. If we freely benefit and partake in the infinite mercy of God, then that divine mercy needs to start flowing from us. We should not forget the covenant of mercy we enter into whenever we pray the Lord’s prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

It is of course a great work we are called to. The world would counsel us to either “forget about it” or that “vengeance is sweet”. But the Lord’s way is divine mercy that has no limit (that’s the meaning of 70 times 7).

It might seem strange at times that the church encourages us to confess our sins so frequently, and to confess things that most other people would simply just forget about, but with a greater sense of our sinfulness and sorrow for our own sin comes a greater sense of the mercy of God. With that greater sense of His compassion for us, and with the aid of the Holy Spirit, we too can learn to forgive with a mercy that has no limits.

Fr Ian

DAY NINE (Eve of Pentecost)