Jesus’ Forgiveness and Our Faith!
Rdgs:(1st: I Sam 12, 7-10.13; Ps: 31, 1-2. 5-7. 11; 2nd: Gal 2, 16-21 Gos: Lk 7, 36-8, 3)
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a member of the Congregation Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers, Province of Nigeria South East. He is currently the Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Woliwo Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. For more details and comments contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org & email@example.com
Phone: +23408063767512 , +23408024942843
On this 11th Sunday of the Ordinary time, the Church wishes us to reflect on one of the core elements of our Christian faith: Forgiveness or better still, Jesus’s Forgiveness. However she wishes us to do this in relation to our faith in Jesus Christ. Most times I have had to take time to counsel some faithful on the need to approach the sacrament of reconciliation with faith. This is because most of them come to re-confess again and again, sins for which absolution and of course forgiveness had earlier on been granted, not necessarily because they have committed them again. On pressing further to find out why they are back with it, one will discover these twin factors in action in their lives: Absolute lack of faith in the forgiveness already granted them by Jesus Christ during their initial confession of the sin, and a very destructive scrupulous conscience which over laden them with the burden of guilt. There is nowhere in the scriptures where Jesus ever said to someone “Go your sins are forgiven or you are healed, pick your mat and go” and recanted or relented in fulfilling his promise or the person remains there.
Idika was invited for an interview to a city where he knew no body. By the time the interview was over, it was late for him to travel a long distance back home. Fortunately, he ran into Raphael, a former schoolmate whom he however had hurt badly years back. Raphael had long forgiven Idika, and in order to prove this to him, offered him shelter for the night. After much persuasion and reassurance, Idika reluctantly accepted to go with him. However, he was greatly afraid that Raphael would seek revenge. So, when Raphael rushed out to a nearby shop to pick some foodstuff for their supper, Idika took his leave. Unfortunately, that night he ran into the hands of some bad boys who robbed, molested and left him almost dead. Most of us are like Idika! Even when Jesus says “your sins are forgiven: go in peace”, we lack enough faith to accept it. Instead, we continue to be crushed by the burden of guilt.
All the readings of today including the psalm, anchor on the forgiveness and mercy of God and Jesus Christ. In the first reading, God confronts, convicts, forgives and acquits David through Nathan. The forgiveness was of course after David realized his sins, repented of them and cried out: “I have sinned against the Lord.” And so earnestly beckons on God: “Forgive Lord the guilt of my sin”. Even though David had to do his penance or suffer the consequences of his sins later on in life in accordance with Catholic doctrine (CCC 1473), it never changed God’s forgiveness for him: “the Lord for his part forgives you; you are not to die.” David accepted this in faith and reigned as the best king Israel ever had. Also in the gospel, Jesus did not mince words when he defiled all odds to say to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven”. This woman got her forgiveness through her faith-based-action which communicated volumes to Jesus. She equally claimed and sustained this forgiveness with her faith by picking up her emptied jar and walking away. If this woman is actually Mary Magdalene as some scholars make us believe, she was never seen again returning to Jesus (for the same reason), safe at the tomb of Jesus (Jn 20, 1-2) with other women and for a noble purpose. Stressing on the importance of faith in our Christian journey, Paul in the second reading writes: “What makes a man righteous is not obedience to the law, but faith in Christ Jesus… I live … with the life of Christ who lives in me.” This is a strong profession of belief in the power of Jesus to forgive and save us from our sins. In spite of Paul’s enormous sins and ugly past record which he though occasionally remembered and recounted in his testimonies, he walked about very satisfied and confident. Jesus who pronounced him FORGIVEN and ACQUITED meant every bit of his word because He says of His word: “…it shall not return unto me void” (Mt 24, 35).
Forgiveness lies in the domain of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and requires enough faith for it to be effective and bear the desired fruit for us Christians. So when the Priest In Persona Christi, says I absolve you from your sins in the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit”, he equally means and says as Christ in today’s readings: “Go in peace, your sins are forgiven”. Even though he gives a little token of penance to the forgiven penitent, the sins are forgiven. This is of course with the resolve not to return to the same sin again. This is why God says: “Come let’s settle the matter, though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Is 1, 18). It is quite unfortunate that many of us unlike the figures in today’s readings, rather than forge ahead with our lives after been absolved and forgiven through the sacrament of reconciliation, faithlessly and scrupulously continue to allow themselves be crushed by the burden of guilt and past life. We are too quick to forget what the scriptures say to us: “…So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (Jn 8, 36).
The Sacrament of Reconciliation makes us new persons because: “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation, the old things have passed away…” (2 Cor 5, 17). Therefore, when Jesus says “your sins are forgiven,” he means every bit of it, and we must accept it in faith because: “He is not man that he should lie” (Nu 23, 19). So when next you hear these healing words: “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of Holy Spirit,” believe strongly that Jesus has forgiven you, and rejoice because: “Happy the man whose offences are forgiven.”
Peace be with you all!