32nd Week OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St Dominic, NOLA
Jesus tells the apostles that they must forgive their sinning brother, even if he sins seven times in one day. How do the disciples respond? They plea, “Increase our faith, Lord!” I live with nine Dominican brothers. . .so, what's 9x7x365??? So I hear and feel the desperate cry of the apostles. I would add to their cry, “Increase my patience, Lord! And my prudence. And my fortitude. . .oh, and my peace.” And I am confident that each brother in the priory feels the same way about dealing with my sins against them. But the point of this Gospel is not calculating the required number of times we must forgive a sinner. This Gospel is about how deeply and broadly we trust in the Lord's promises to make all things right. It's about how much of our own strength and energy we invest in trusting that God the Father has both the first and last word on who receives mercy. When Jesus assures his despairing apostles that faith the size of a mustard seed can uproot a mulberry tree, he's not telling them that faith can be measured in pounds and inches; he's telling them that even the smallest faith is invincible when wielded with absolute confidence.
How can one's faith be invincible? Faith is not a magical power. It's not a means of manipulating God. Nor is it something that can be accumulated and counted like money. BXVI tells us that faith is the good habit of trusting in God's promises. He writes, “. . .faith is a habitus, that is, a stable disposition of the spirit, through which eternal life takes root in us and reason is led to consent to what it does not see.”* So, faith is a stable disposition of the spirit. Firmness. Solidity. Consistency. Stability of temperament. The question of one's faith is NOT: how much faith do I have right at this moment? But rather: how stable/strong/consistent is my trust in God's promises over the long haul? When the inevitable storms of life beat me up, how strong is my foundation in Christ? Are the walls and roof of my relationship with Christ well-built? You can forgive a sinner 7x's a day or 77x's a day b/c you trust that God – as the infinite source of mercy – is doing the same for you. You can dole out forgiveness freely and easily b/c you are strongly disposed, permanently bent toward trusting that God is in control, and that His promises have been kept. Woe to you who cause another to sin. Woe to you who will not forgive.
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