Tag Archives: forgiveness

Nativity of St. John the Baptist

The Path of Peace

When John the Baptist was eight days old he was brought to the temple to be circumcised as was the Jewish custom. His father the priest then prophesied over him:

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:75-79)
The path of peace theme is also echoed in the prophecy of Isaiah:

Comfort, O comfort my people,
    says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
    and cry to her
that she has served her term,
    that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
    double for all her sins.   (Isaiah 40:1-2)

There is only one way to peace and Jesus is that way. He is the Prince of Peace. Today, we are hearing about another peace. It is said that a peace will be provided by a new world order and a one world government and a one world religion. How much should we trust this peace? Paul writes to the Church in Thessalonica:

For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.   (1 Thessalonians 5:2-4)

When John grew into his ministry he preached that we must repent of our sins and seek the real Messiah. John prepared the way for Him. Jesus has prepared the way for us to approach God the Father.

Thomas, the disciple of Jesus was confused about the identity of Jesus:

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.   (John 14:5-6)

There are no alternative ways of peace? John the Baptist’s message was very simple. Repent and seek Jesus. His whole ministry was to point us to Jesus. Nonetheless, in the world today there are many distracting voices. These distractions lead to dead ends, literally. Jesus said:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.   (John 14:27)

The world promises peace but delivers persecution. Again Jesus said:

I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”   (John 16:33)

Peace will only come to the world during the millennial reign of Jesus. The message of John the Baptist was quite simple. He was not the Messiah. Jesus is the Messiah and true path of peace. All we need to do is repent and believe.

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Day of Pentecost, Year C

Empowered by the Holy Spirit

Today we remember and celebrate the beginning of the Christian Church, when the Holy Spirit fell upon the early disciples. Reading from the second chapter of Acts:

When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.   (Acts 2:1-4)

The Day of Pentecost was the beginning of the great acts of the apostles of Jesus. It was the beginning but not the end. The promise of the Holy was for us today also. In his sermon of Pentecost, Peter preached:

In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.   (Acts 2:17-18)

Many of his listeners were greatly moved and asked what they should do. Peter replied:

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”   (Acts 2:38-39)

Peter makes it clear that the promise of the Holy Spirit was not just for the apostles. It was everyone, including those “who are far off.” That would include us.

Jesus made it very clear that the acts of the apostles were for anyone who believes in him:

Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.   ()

The acts are by the Holy Spirit. We must believe and receive the Holy Spirit. And we must do everything in the name of Jesus. The name of Jesus also means the character of Jesus. Jesus was led by the Spirit while on the earth. We are to be led by the same. The Apostle Paul writes:

All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ– if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.   (Romans 8:14-17)

We are joint heirs with Christ because we have received a spirit of adoption. Our destiny is to be glorified along with him. The Bo0k of Acts did not have an ending. The acts are still going on. Are we participating?

What could possibly stop us? How could the power of the Spirit be dampened in us and in our churches? Perhaps through fear. Paul warns about falling back into fear. Fear is not from God. Paul encouraged his protege Timothy to rekindle the Spirit within him:

For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.   (2 Timothy 1:6-7)

Satan is the one who uses fear. He wants to confuse us and make us forget our inheritance in Christ. How does he do it? Through intimidation, through ridicule, through persecution. Does the Church today need to be politically correct? Does the Church need to be relevant and make the world feel right at home? Too much “seeker friendly” perhaps? What is the answer? I am not sure, to be honest. But this much we should know, we will not be glorified with Jesus if we do not suffer with him.

We cannot avoid suffering and have the power of the Spirit working in us. Our own power is not what has advanced the Church. It is the Spirit of God which has established and enriches the Church. Let us stir up the gift that is within us. Let us anoint people in the name of Jesus and set them apart for the greater works that God has prepared for them. Let us fulfill our own calling, not by our  will and power, but by the will and power of God. And let us not be ruled by fear. God’s perfect love casts out fear:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.   (1 John 4:18)

We are called to serve under Christ by his Spirit and power. We have been freed from the spirit of fear! God is perfecting us in his love. Let us have our own Pentecost, in our hearts and in our churches. Amen.

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Monday in the Fifth Week of Lent

Two Cases of Adultery 

In today’s readings we have two cases of adultery, one concerning an actual case and the other a phony one. The circumstances are quite different in each one, but there is a commonality between them.

From the reading in John, a woman is caught in the act of adultery. The charges against her were true:

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”   (John 8:3–5)

The scribes and the Pharisees were up to their usual tricks. This was an attempt to trap Jesus. But as usual they fell into their own trap when Jesus said to them:

“Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”   (John 8:7)

Jesus forced them into a corner where they found themselves, grudgingly, showing mercy on the woman. Even though the woman had not asked him, Jesus demonstrated the mercy of God. He told the woman to “go and sin no more.” (John 8:11)

In the case of Susanna, the charges against her were false:

Then the two elders stood up before the people and laid their hands on her head. Through her tears she looked up towards Heaven, for her heart trusted in the Lord. The elders said, “While we were walking in the garden alone, this woman came in with two maids, shut the garden doors, and dismissed the maids. Then a young man, who was hiding there, came to her and lay with her. We were in a corner of the garden, and when we saw this wickedness we ran to them. Although we saw them embracing, we could not hold the man, because he was stronger than we are, and he opened the doors and got away. We did, however, seize this woman and asked who the young man was, but she would not tell us. These things we testify.”

Because they were elders of the people and judges, the assembly believed them and condemned Susanna to death.   (Susanna 34–41)

We have the trickery of the scribes and Pharisees and, in the case of Susanna, the falsehood of the elders, driven by impure motives. And then we have the motive of God which is to show mercy. Susanna looked up to heaven and put her trust in God. God then exposed the two elders:

Then the whole assembly raised a great shout and blessed God, who saves those who hope in him. And they took action against the two elders, because out of their own mouths Daniel had convicted them of bearing false witness; they did to them as they had wickedly planned to do to their neighbour. Acting in accordance with the law of Moses, they put them to death. Thus innocent blood was spared that day.(Susanna 60–62)

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Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C

The Love of the Father

Jesus was criticized by the Pharisee for eating with sinners. He responds to them with this famous parable of the prodigal son:

“There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”‘   (Luke 15:11-19)

The younger son realize that he had greatly sinned against his father and heaven. He felt so ashamed of himself that could not ask for forgiveness. He only hoped that his father would take him back as a servant. He was not prepared for the Father’s greeting upon his return:

So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.   (Luke 15:20-24)

This parable illustrates how eager our heavenly Father is to forgive us when we return to him and confess our sin. What could easily be lost here is that God not only forgives, but he removes our shame and disgrace.

There was a time in the wilderness when God removed the disgrace of the children of Israel. Reading from Joshua:

When the circumcising of all the nation was done, they remained in their places in the camp until they were healed. The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.” And so that place is called Gilgal to this day.   (Joshua 5:8-9)

We not only need God’s forgiveness. We need him to lift our shame and disgrace so that we might have a fresh start. How many of us today know that God will to remove our disgrace if we let him. We hear people say: “I know that God has forgiven me but I cannot forgive myself.” God does not want us bound by the past. He wants to circumcise our hearts so that we might start over. It is time to allow him to do that for us.

Let us look at another side of God’s love and grace. There was an elder son in the parable that had not rebelled against the father in the same way as the younger son:

“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”   (Luke 15:25-32)

The two sons were quite different, but they shared something in common. They had the same father, of course. But they both failed to understand the father’s love. His love was unconditional. It does not need to be earned. Had both of these sons had a deeper relationship with the father they might have understood that. We need to draw closer to God the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ. Now is the time look deeper into his heart. God wants to celebrate with us today. There may have been a time when we were lost, but now we have been found. Can we join in the celebration, or are we too busy keeping score on others? Let us move on from the old person to the new. The Apostle Paul wrote:

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.   (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)

Are we counting trespasses? If so, then we are not very good ambassadors for Christ. Paul goes on:

So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.   (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)

It is time to be reconciled to God. God will remove our sin and offer us righteousness by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us not look back. Let us go forward in newness of life.

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