Forgiveness Until the End
Malvern Minute

 

May 2, 2017 – Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter

Saint Athanasius, Bishop, Doctor of the Church

I am the bread of life, says the Lord; whoever comes to me will never hunger. Alleluia!

Mark J. Poletunow, Malvern President (mpoletunow@malvernretreat.com)

Click for: Readings for the day (From the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops)

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles (7:51 – 8:1a)

Stephen said to the people, the elders, and the scribes:
“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears,
you always oppose the Holy Spirit;

you are just like your ancestors.
Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute?
They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one,
whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.
You received the law as transmitted by angels,
but you did not observe it.”

When they heard this, they were infuriated,
and they ground their teeth at him.

But Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit,
looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God
and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,
and Stephen said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened
and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

But they cried out in a loud voice,
covered their ears, and rushed upon him together.
They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him.
The witnesses laid down their cloaks
at the feet of a young man named Saul.
As they were stoning Stephen, he called out,
“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice,
“Lord, do not hold this sin against them”;
and when he said this, he fell asleep.

Now Saul was consenting to his execution.
Reflect: Lord, do not hold this sin against them. Stephen was giving witness to Jesus Christ which challenged his listeners, including the scribes and elders of the people.  They were seen as the ultimate authority, but this young disciple was challenging them to the core. Their pride was hurt. They chose not to listen, to learn or to let the grace of God touch their hearts. Instead, they screamed over the voice of Stephen and they covered their ears; they rushed him outside of the holy city to do their evil acts; they proceeded to murder Stephen by stoning. Regardless of the darkness and evil around him, Stephen remained at peace. He focused on a vision of Jesus at the right hand of God the Father, and he prayed: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” But before he died from this violence, his heart was filled not with hatred, but with compassion and forgiveness, as he cried out: Lord do not hold this sin against them.” The grace to act and speak like that came from Stephen’s unconditional trust in Jesus Christ. The possible conversion of his murderers was more important than responding with vengeance, or evil for evil. It is no coincidence that Saul (who would become Paul after his own conversion) was present there and complicit in Stephen’s death. Vengeance, hatred, and unforgiveness can destroy hearts – especially our own. Let’s pray, today, for a heart that is willing to forgive until the end. We have no idea what effect that might have on the salvation of others.

Questions: Am I holding on to any hatred or unforgiveness? Might compassion and forgiveness, even toward those who have greatly hurt me, contribute to my salvation as well as that of others? Who can I ask Jesus to begin to forgive today?

Pray: Loving God, you are the fullness of life. Take away any spirit of vengeance, hatred or unforgiveness from my heart.  Give me the grace to extend your love and mercy to others just as you have loved and forgiven me. I pray this in the powerful and perfect name of Jesus. Amen.

Saint Athanasius: Pray for us!

No one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ. Alleluia!

Saint Athanasius is one of the four great doctors of the Eastern Church. He was bishop of Alexandria for forty-five years and exiled five times for championing the teachings of the Council of Nicea against the Arian heresy. He was known as the “Doctor of the Incarnation”.

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ENCOUNTERING THE DIVINE PHYSICIAN (Gospel of Luke 5: 17-26)

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