November 8 – Wednesday of the Twenty-fifth Week after Pentecost (8th of Luke) Luke 12:48-59
Forgive Us as We Forgive Others: Luke 12:48-59, especially vs. 49, 51: “I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! . . . Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division.” What is the nature of the fire of which Christ speaks? How do we understand these violent images? Is His true purpose to disrupt and divide, rather than to bring peace? (Jn 16:33). Does He contradict Himself?
The Lord Jesus Christ is quite willing to divide humanity. He is forthright concerning His intentions: “Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division” (Lk 12:51). The God-man came as the Word of fire which “consumes every materialistic and coarse thought and destroys idols made of whatever substance” (Blessed Theophylact, Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to Saint Luke, p. 161). Christ is the fire of truth igniting the imbedded lies of this world.
Not long after the Lord expresses His longing to ignite this fire, Satan launches his final assault to eliminate the God-man through the ultimate baptism of the Cross (vs. 50). Covert conflict becomes open war. From that day onward, the human race has lived in a state of total spiritual war. No one is neutral; there is no “civilian population” removed from the conflict. In the end, each person on earth supports one side or the other.
This spiritual war is not a conflict created by God, but the product of Satan and those who join him in fighting against God. “We say therefore, that not every peace is good and beyond reproach,” continues the Blessed Theophylact, “[for] there is a peace which is dangerous and drives us away from the love of God, for example, when we make peace and establish harmony by destroying. . . . Indeed, concerning what is true and good, He wants us to be at odds with each other rather than appease one another by compromise of the good.”
Adversarial conflict is our present reality (vss. 58-59). Families are torn apart and fragmented by hate (vss. 52-53). Every disciple needs to be aware of the conditions that set “father . . . against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother” (vs. 53). Very often the conflict seems to come not from unseen, demonic foes, but from those near and dear to us. People we rely upon fail us, and we betray our friends. Yes, people wrong us, and we in turn wrong others. This is the present spiritual war.
In the no-man’s land where we are often caught up in a spiritual cross-fire between hate and wrong, we survive by speaking the truth, by loving and forgiving. The Lord teaches us how to stay alive in a war zone: “When you pray, say . . . forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us” (vss. 11:2, 4).
When we pray these words, we acknowledge two truths: first, our need for forgiveness, and second, our desperate need to forgive others. We admit to God what the Prophet David confesses to the Lord: “Against Thee only have I sinned and done this evil before Thee” (Ps 50:4). “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us,” Saint John reminds us (1 Jn 1:10).
For our eternal survival, we need to meet the Lord’s standard. If we “forgive men their trespasses, [so] your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Mt 6:14-15). Let us “make every effort along the way to settle” our debts with God and our adversaries (Lk 12:58). This action is more than mere religious talk or an empty gesture – it is a choice with urgent and eternal consequences.
Grant us, O Lord, pardon and remission of our sins and transgressions and Thy good and profitable, life-bestowing grace to forgive those who offend and wrong us. – Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom