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Temptation, Forgiveness, and Faith
Memorial of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, Virgin
He said to his disciples, “Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the person through whom they occur. It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.” And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”
Opening Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, I thank you for the opportunity to come before you in prayer. I particularly ask you to increase my faith. I understand that challenges and temptations will come my way. Without a strongly rooted faith, I will stumble. However, Lord, teach me that even in my stumbles and struggles, I may learn to rely ever more on you.
- The Inevitability of Temptation: “Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the person through whom they occur.” God in his Providence has not removed evil from the world. Rather, he has given us the strength to overcome it. During the Last Supper Jesus prayed to the Father regarding his Apostles, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15). Now we must “discern between trials, which are necessary for the growth of the inner man, and temptation, which leads to sin and death” (CCC 2847). However, even temptations can reveal to us our own weaknesses and thereby be useful (CCC 2847). Nevertheless, we want to avoid temptation when possible, and most certainly avoid becoming the cause of temptation for others.
- Forgive Again: Another consequence of living in a fallen world is the need to ask for forgiveness and to give it—repeatedly. The “once saved always saved” doctrine of Protestants forgets that while in this life we must live in time and, therefore, we have the opportunity to do good or evil repeatedly. As such, any relationship that traverses time requires constant renewal. Yesterday I was good; today I have sinned. This is why the disciple frequently prays the “Our Father” and asks both for forgiveness and to not be led into temptation, with each recitation of the prayer. This is also why we have to go to confession after the initial conversion of our baptism. This journey through time and the opportunity for renewal is our challenge and our hope.
- Faith the Size of a Mustard Seed: It was after Our Lord’s insistence on the need for frequent forgiveness that the apostles asked him to “Increase our faith.” This was not changing the subject. Rather, it was a profound intuition that the only way to be capable of repeatedly forgiving others is to be rooted in a deep faith. At times they would be able to forgive some transgressions only with the aid of grace and for the love of God. This faith helps the disciple of the Lord to forgive, and also to overcome all obstacles–or mountains–along the way.
Conversing with Christ: Jesus, I have often asked you for forgiveness. Therefore, I must also be willing to forgive. Help me to do so as often as needed. Increase my faith so that in all my challenges and struggles I may never lose sight of you as my destination and of your grace as my assistance. Let even my struggles and falls lead to a greater humility and reliance upon you.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will ask for or offer forgiveness—even in the small things.
For Further Reflection: Read Want true force? Try forgiveness.