Luke 6: 36-38
Ever fallen for one of those TV commercials that advertise a six pack body without having to go to the gym? Yup your right, if you did, then you’re a sucker! Nothing comes that easy; it’s hard work all the way. So why expect anything different in our spiritual lives?
Consider these three tiny verses of today’s gospel. When you read through, the tendency is to let your eyes glide over the challenges in verses 36 and 37 and then settle comfortably on the promises of verse 38; promises of God’s blessings, pressed down, shaken together and running over. But to expect the blessing of verse 38 without the application of the previous verses; to be merciful, non-judgmental and forgiving, is like expecting those famous six packs, without stepping into a gym.
Jesus was no fool when he linked those words side by side, give and forgive. He knew that forgiving must begin with giving. I can’t forgive unless I ‘give up’ my right to get even. Jesus does not ask us to forgive for our neighbour’s sake; He asks us to forgive so that we may be at peace with our selves. It is the poison within us that needs to leave our system, for healing to take place.
The heart of forgiveness lies in verse 36; “be merciful, just as your Father is merciful”. Many years ago, the Emperor Napoleon had issued a decree, that any deserter from his army would be shot on being arrested. The next day a tearful mother turned up to plead with the Emperor, begging for mercy for her son, who fled the battlefield in fear of the terrifying bloodshed. Napoleon boomed, “He does not deserve mercy.” “You are right”, the mother said, “Mercy is never deserved!”
This is why forgiveness is linked to mercy. More than often, the one receiving forgiveness does not deserve it; yet we are asked to be merciful so that our forgiveness may be as generous as the Father’s giving. Remember Romans 5:8? ‘While we were yet sinners’, God adopted us. What’s in it for me you ask? At the time you most need it, you will be ‘forGIVEN’; and that too, pressed down, shaken together, running over.
Many years ago, as a young priest, I found myself constantly in a run in with the parish priest. A wise Bishop, in response to my bitter complaints advised me, ‘you can focus on him (the priest) or on Him (Jesus). You want to learn forgiveness? Fix your eyes on Jesus, on the cross. Such love from a dying man. Take some time with this one, its way tougher than a six pack.
Fr Warner D’Souza
…who has received much forgiveness from the Lord.