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Date:         September 11, 2011
Year:         A
The readings: [Sir. 27:30-28:7; Rom. 14:7-9; Mt. 18:21-35]
The message:  Forgive your brother and sister from your heart.
Total words:  2389

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** The readings follow the sermon.

Good morning to all of you, precious creations of God who have been called to become saints in Jesus. [Rom. 1:7; 2 Cor. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:2, 4, 12, 26] How beautiful it would have been if we could all have been born as already made perfect saints. But this is not the case! Called to become saints, it requires that we be sanctified in Christ. [1 Cor 1:2]

Today, we received a very clear message from the Lord God through the readings of the Holy Bible. We were told to forgive others of all their trespasses against us. And, our forgiveness should not be just once or twice, but seventy times seven. That does not mean that if we forgive every day for 490 days, then our share of forgiveness has been completed. The seventy times seven means ongoing forgiveness, day after day, week after week, years after years, this being done without counting.

When we do not forgive someone, it is because we are passing judgment on that person. Jesus commanded us not to judge others so that we will not be judged. For by the measure that we judge others, by refusing to forgive them of their trespasses, that same measure will be used against us when our time of judgment arrives. [Mt. 7:1-2]

So how can we perfectly forgive someone without judging? It is by completely forgetting the offenses that were committed by the person. It is by forgiving as a holy child of God, forgiving as God would forgive. In His holiness, God promised, "None of the sins that they have committed shall be remembered against them; they have done what is lawful and right, they shall surely live." [Ezek. 33:16] God shall no longer remember the sins of the sinner who does what is right... He forgives those who trespassed against Him without counting, without looking back, without ever mentioning the trespass again, as if it never happened. That is holy forgiveness.

My brothers and sisters, when we leave here today, let us remember these words,

"Being unable to forgive is the greatest obstacle to holiness!"

Let us imprint these life saving words on our minds in extra large letters and let us never forget them! Our salvation depends on them!

Many are unable to proceed with their sanctification because they cannot find it in their hearts to forgive. They fall short of the Divine love of God. In fact, did you know that there are more offenders in the prisons who receive the love and mercy of God than there are victims who are free in the world? This end result occurs because offenders spend more time towards reflecting on their sins. An offender is better disposed to acknowledged his guilty heart and conscience that is not at peace. In search for spiritual peace, he is led by the Divine grace of God to admit his guilt, to repent, to confess and to seek salvation through the Lord's abounding mercy and forgiveness. The general attitude of those who are victims of crimes is that they are without sin! No one is without sin! If anyone believes that he is without sin, he is deceiving himself and the truth is not in him. [1 Jn. 1:8]

The soul that cannot forgive does not have the truth of God in its heart. That means that such a person is not righteous and forgiving as God has commanded. While possibly unaware of it, such a person has withdrawn himself as an adopted child of God until such time as he can find the strength in his heart to forgive.

Most of us have been victims at one time or another in our lives. We may have been victims of mental abuse such as rudeness. We may have been victims of ongoing psychological abuse. We may have been victims of physical abuse, discipline that goes beyond the necessity of discipline. And some may have been victims of sexual abuse.

As victims, we may say in our hearts, "It's not fair. First I was victimized by the offender and now I am being victimized by God." That is not true! God does not victimized anyone! In His abounding Divine love, God wants to heal all the souls that have been victimized! God knows how these souls are hurting. God wants these soul to forgive so that their psychological suffering may come to an end. God wants to remove the scars that inflict the victims. God wants the victims to let go of their past so that the past may totally fade away. Why would a person desire such sufferings that will only lead to bitterness, to quarrels, to revenge, etc..? Are these feelings, bitterness, quarrelling, revenge, from the light of God or from the Prince of darkness? Who is the master here that influences the person to pursue sufferings?

When a person rejects God's healing grace, he is committing spiritual suicide. When a person seeks revenge rather than healing, he is committing spiritual suicide. When a victim abandons his/her faith because he/she has suffered at the hands of an abuser who was mentally sick, such a victim commits spiritual suicide. When a victim seeks monetary compensation from the perpetrator or his/her employer, such a victim is committing spiritual suicide. Spiritual suicide is a rejection of God's holy way of forgiving!

Who is a greater offender in the eyes of God, the murderer, the rapist, or the adulterer? Most will answer that it is the murderer. Adultery is a lesser sin because, to many, it has become an accepted social behaviour. Yet, in the eyes of God, each person is an offender that deserves equal punishment. In fact, while the murderer may have only one victim, the adulterous person may have dozen of offenses on his record. But because of the social attitude of acceptance towards adultery, the person will deny that he is a sinner. How wrong he is!

Many examples of offenses against the Divinity of God can be provided to demonstrate the many sins of the world. The one who embezzles from the poor and the seniors is just as guilty of sinning as the murderer is, the embezzler often having a great number of victims. What about the young offender who robs seventy-five homes and steals items of sentimental value that can never be replaced? What about the one who breaks the windshields of numerous vehicle, causing the insurance rates of hundreds of victims to rise, this creating an additional financial burden on each person? Will these souls, the adulterous, the embezzlers or the robbers ever be able to undue what they have done? Most likely not! They will all need forgiveness!

How many realize that a great number of offenders were once victims themselves? Not only have they been victimized once, but they are being victimized a second time because they have acted in the manner in which they were raised! These offenders, victims of others, have lost their first love because they were corrupted by an environment that failed them, those who influenced them in their childhood and robbed them of God's innate love. God alone knows their hearts and He knows their sufferings. Who has the right to cast the first stone? Jesus said, " He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." [Jn. 8:7] Rather than continuing their judgment against the adulteress, the sinners all walked away. They knew in their hearts that they were all just as guilty, not of the same sin, but of other sins that were equally offending in the eyes of God.

If a teenager is encouraged by his parents to consume alcohol in his home since his early age, who is to blame when this same teenager becomes an adult alcoholic and kills someone while driving under the influence of alcohol? Should this young adult be placed in jail or his parents? Where is the compassion of the members of the Christian community who have an obligation to help the alcoholic towards recovery? Where is the love of God?

What about the person who abused or molested a child, that person having been a victim of repeated abuses or molestations during his or her childhood? Will making this adult an outcast of society by the Christian community be the answer to providing this victim with the well deserved and long overdued help in the love of God?

I expect by now that many of your are experiencing mixed emotions, judgments, distaste for certain offenses, mentally providing excuses for your judgments, associating yourselves as victims, etc... That is why I said earlier,

"Being unable to forgive is the most difficult part of sanctification!"

Some victims cannot find it in their hearts to forgive. Jesus said: "I do not condemn you, go, and sin no more." [Jn. 8:11] Is this not the right approach, the true Christian approach? Is it not easier to forgive and assist an offender towards recovery?

Society presently is suggesting that it is easier to hang the murderers; to lock up the schizophrenics in the prisons rather than providing them with health care services; to put into practice a "Three strikes - you are out" policy to permanently lock up offenders; all in hope that the problems will go away? The problems will not go away! This type of alternate solution endangers the salvation of the individuals who put them into practice. This is not Divine love. It is revenge!

Vengeance is mine says the Lord. To God belongs the right of vengeance and rewarding; the unrighteous soul will fall in due time for the day of disaster is approaching and it will quickly arrive. [Deut. 32:35] Many are playing God by placing judgment on others rather than forgiving. Only Jesus has the authority to judge, such authority having been given to Him by the Heavenly Father. [Jn. 5:22]

If Jesus could forgive those who murdered Him [Lk. 23:33-4], He Who was sinless, He Who was pure of heart, He Who was God incarnated, why is it so difficult for others to forgive so the world can be a better place to live in? Only we as individuals can answer that question by looking deep into our hearts. The heart of the unforgiving spirit reflects the true nature that is no different than the nature of Satan. Satan wanted power, believing that he could overthrow the Heavenly Throne of God. The one who cannot forgive others falsely believes that he has the power to control the destiny of others. He says, "You made me suffer. Now it is my turn to make your suffer." This control will not last long, at least not beyond this physical world!

Why is it alleged that offenders commit crimes to seek power? Are not the suffering victims and politicians also seeking power? This seeking of power did not suddenly arise from their hearts! It was there all the time. Now it is surfacing, displaying their true nature! We should never judge another person, especially if the judgment that we make against someone else reflects our own heart. Through our judgment, we are condemning ourselves.

These examples demonstrate how seriously the hearts of many have deteriorated. Spiritual growth is being blocked because of a failure to forgive, this bringing the soul into a state of decay. It is hoped that through the grace of God, that today, all may be able to perceive the seriousness of such an attitude. There is a desperate need for everyone to receive Divine healing through the grace of God. Everyone needs to ask God for this grace. God heals the broken hearts and bandages their wounds. [Ps. 147:3]

What happens when a person receives the grace of God and finds it in his heart to forgive? He receives the peace of mind that has long been overdued. What was once known as peace, was bitterness, but now God has held back the life of the person from the pit of destruction, for God has cast all his sins behind His back. [Is. 38:17]

God will forgive the soul that forgives others. God will welcome the return of such a child into the Body of Christ to continue its sanctification. The Holy Spirit will once more dwell within the body of the repentant individual. God will bless the person with numerous graces, this being God's way of rejoicing in this great moment. God rejoices more for the one soul that is saved than for the ninety nine that were not in need of being saved. [Mt. 18:13]

Jesus is the light that leads us towards obeying the Will of the Heavenly Father. Jesus said: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life. [Jn. 8:12]

We should all consider our past experiences of being unforgiving as a training towards our sanctification, such having been permitted by God in His great wisdom to humble our souls so that we may conform ourselves to His Divine likeness and Will. "For the Lord disciplines those whom He loves, and chastises every child whom He accepts." [Heb. 12:6] Jesus alone has the authority to judge! We will be judged in the way that we judge others!

Once we come in agreement with God's Will by forgiving from the sincerity of our hearts, then, and then only, we will begin to experience Divine peace.

In closing, I ask you all to be of one mind this week. I ask you all to unite your prayers for the needs of victims of abuse. Satan would like to devour them by destroying their faith in God, in the Church, and in the members of society. The prince of darkness seeks to direct their hearts towards revenge, monetary compensation, the ongoing inflicting of suffering upon others. Let us pray that God's grace will transform the hearts of those who are committing spiritual suicide, that they may forgive their brothers and sisters from their hearts for the eternal glory of the Lord God.

* * * * * * * * * *

The readings...

[The readings were taken from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (C) 1989 Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the United States of America.]

* * * * * * * * * *

First Reading...

"Anger and wrath, these also are abominations, yet a sinner holds on to them. The vengeful will face the Lord's vengeance, for he keeps a strict account of their sins. Forgive your neighbor the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray. Does anyone harbour anger against another, and expect healing from the Lord? If one has no mercy toward another like himself, can he then seek pardon for his own sins? If a mere mortal harbours wrath, who will make an atoning sacrifice for his sins? Remember the end of your life, and set enmity aside; remember corruption and death, and be true to the commandments. Remember the commandments, and do not be angry with your neighbor; remember the covenant of the Most High, and overlook faults." [Sir. 27:30-28:7]

* * * * * * * * * *

Second Reading...

"We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living." [Rom. 14:7-9]

* * * * * * * * * *

Gospel Reading...

"Then Peter came and said to him, "Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. "For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything,' And out of pity for him the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, 'Pay what you owe.' Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you.' But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place.

Then his lord summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?' And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to everyone of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart." [Mt. 18:21-35]

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