January 13, 2018

Post-feast of Theophany; the Holy Martyrs Hermylus and Stratonicus (313-24)

1 Thessalonians 5:14-23; Luke 17:3-10

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

At the centre of today’s Gospel is the call to faithfulness and the related call to mercy. Our Lord affirms the importance of fidelity to God’s commandments and at the same time calls us to grow in faith so that we might do great things in His name.

Perhaps the greatest of these things is to show mercy and to demonstrate a constant willingness to forgiveness; this we might say is the touchstone of Pope Francis’ pontificate, and rightly so. In our Christian lives, we are called to bring the mercy of God to others through a forgiving heart and a willingness to love others more fully through this forgiveness. The call to mercy is such a constant refrain in the Holy Scriptures and in the history of the Church with the greatest saints being marked by a devotion to God’s mercy –a devotion that can only be cultivated by recognizing more and more our own sinfulness and in that process acquiring more fully that Christ-like mercy that we receive by joining ourselves to Him.

The world would tell us that forgiveness is either weak because it supposedly permits others to take advantage of us, or that forgiveness must bring us some sort of personal benefit. No. This is not true forgiveness. True forgiveness that reveals God’s mercy through our love for others is strength because it rejects the self-serving nature of our society that tells us that we are sovereign, that we are in charge, that we are own saviour. This is a false strength. In forgiving we run fundamentally counter to what the world and the prince of this world would have us do. In forgiving we demonstrate strength because in a near perfect exercise of our free will we counter our pride and put God and the other before us. Forgiveness and mercy are at the core of our salvation since it is Our Lord, the source of our salvation, that forgave all humanity on the Cross and by His passion, death, and resurrection bestowed upon us great mercy. Now THAT is strength. May the mercy we show others always flow not from our own selves, riddled with pride and vainglory, but from the sweet wood of the Cross and the empty tomb which make all things new.

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