daily biblical sermons


IF YOUR BROTHER SINS, REBUKE HIM, AND IF HE REPENTS, FORGIVE HIM
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Monday, 32nd Week of the Yea, November 12, 2018
Titus 1:1-9, Psalm 23, Luke 17:1-6


Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted

 

"And he [Jesus] said to his disciples, ‘Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung round his neck and he were cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him; and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, and says, "I repent," you must forgive him'" (Luke 17:1-4).


Today's gospel reading deals with the very important issue of sin and forgiveness. We know about personal private sins and God's forgiveness of them, but today's gospel reading is about either causing another person to fall into sin or sinning against another person. Tempting someone else to sin is a serious matter. Here Jesus mentions causing "one of these little ones to sin" (Luke 17:2). So serious and harmful is this that


"It would be better for him if a millstone were hung round his neck and he were cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin" (Luke 17:2).


The Church, especially in the United States, is occupied with this problem right now, and the United States' bishops are meeting tomorrow and the next day (November 13-14th) in Baltimore for their Fall meeting, and this issue will surely be their main concern.


Statistical studies have clearly shown that the main cause of the present clerical sex abuse crisis is homosexuality among the clergy, for four out of every five (80%) cases are homosexual in nature - a male cleric against a minor who is a pubescent teenage boy.


But why is this happening now rather than before. The main reason is that since Vatican II there is a far higher percentage of homosexual clerics than there was before the Council, because since Vatican II homosexuals have been admitted into the seminary. This clearly needs to be addressed, admitted, and corrected, for even Pope Francis has stated several times that homosexuals should not be admitted into the seminary.


Some highly placed Church leaders, such as Cardinal Cupich of Chicago, have publicly denied that homosexuality has anything whatsoever to do with the present clerical sex abuse crisis, but this claim is clearly refuted by the statistical fact that more than 80% of the clerical sexual abuse cases are homosexual in nature - male upon male, and most cases are not against small children but against minors who are pubescent boys.


Today's gospel reading leaves us in no doubt that scandalizing and causing these little ones to sin is a very serious matter indeed.


"It would be better for him if a millstone were hung round his neck and he were cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin" (Luke 17:2).


We hope and pray that our bishops will take serious steps at their meeting this week to correctly identify and name the main cause of this problem (homosexuality among the clergy) and then take effective measures to remedy it.


In all this, we must treat those afflicted with the disorder of same-sex attraction in a loving way, but nonetheless clearly condemn this attraction as an evil disorder and perversion of God's plan for human sexuality, which is gravely sinful if acted upon, as God's normative biblically revealed moral law makes unmistakably clear (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Romans 1:22-28).


But our reading today also clearly speaks of forgiveness.


"Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him; and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, and says, ‘I repent,' you must forgive him" (Luke 17:4).


We know that God completely forgives all sins that we confess and repent of, because of the atoning death of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, on the cross, for he took our sins upon himself and suffered our punishment for them for us so that we won't have to suffer it ourselves.


Our sins, though, may still have human consequences. We might be sent to prison or be removed from ministry or, if we murder someone, even be executed by the state. But before God our debt of punishment for our sins has been fully paid for for us by the Son of God himself on the cross. So if we put our faith in him and in his reparation-making work for us on the cross, we can be at peace with God no matter what human consequences we may have to suffer for our sins.


But Jesus tells us even more in today's gospel reading. He tells us that not only does God forgive us, but that we also should forgive one another. We should forgive those who sin against us.


"Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him; and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, and says, ‘I repent,' you must forgive him" (Luke 17:3-4).


Jesus says, "If he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, and says, ‘I repent,' you must forgive him" (Luke 17:4).


Somehow the human consequences of sin on the one hand and our forgiveness of a sinner seven times a day if he truly repents on the other hand should go together.


A good example of this is St. John Paul II's forgiving and visiting in prison the man who shot him. He personally forgave him, yet the man still remained in prison for many more years. St. John Paul II forgave him, but the human consequences of that man's sin of shooting the pope still remained, namely serving his prison sentence.


A cleric may be removed from ministry for sexually violating a minor, but we should also forgive him if he sincerely repents.


Normally sexually assaulting a minor only comes to light thirty or forty or more years later, once the assaulted minor is in his 60's or more and is finally emotionally mature enough to make publicly known what happened to him. By that time the statutes of limitations have long since expired and the perpetrator can no longer be prosecuted by the state, but he can be removed from public ministry by the Church, which is the human consequence of his sin.


But if he is genuinely repentant and confesses his sin, he is completely forgiven by God and is reconciled with him, because of the reparation that Jesus Christ made on the cross for his sins. So he can live in peace with God, without fear of further divine punishment, which has already been taken care of and suffered vicariously for him by Jesus Christ on the cross.


Forgiving the sins of others is also important in order to be forgiven for our own sins. We ourselves should forgive sinners so that our own sins might be forgiven, as we pray in the Lord's Prayer:


"And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matthew 6:12).


"If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:14-15).


"Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against any one; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses" (Mark 11:25).


It is very important that we forgive the sins of others, when they are genuinely repentant and confess and abandon their sins if we want God to forgive our own sins. If we refuse to forgive a repentant sinner, God will also refuse to forgive our sins.


"If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:15).


So if you are concerned about your sins and hope that God will forgive them, then, in addition to genuinely repenting of them and confessing them, you should also clearly forgive the sins of other repentant sinners like yourself.


If God has forgiven us so many sins, we must also forgive the sins of others, for if we don't, God will remember our past sins against us.


Jesus told us a parable about this, the parable of a man that had an enormous debt with a king who forgave it all. But then this same man went out and imprisoned another man who owed him a small sum. When the king heard what had happened, he "summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?' And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt" (Matthew 18:32-34).


For not forgiving his fellow servant, his own debt was brought back and he was imprisoned until he paid it all.


Jesus' conclusion for us is:


"So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart" (Matthew 18:35).


So while we let the human consequences of our sins take their course and let the state impose its punishments on our sins, we ourselves as Christians must be merciful and forgiving toward repentant sinners if we want our own sins to be forgiven.

 

 

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