By Mary Sayad

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  • Understanding the Bible - Part 4
    Palm Sunday and Forgiveness

    Beloved Friends,

    I have decided to include two lessons in Part 4.

    Firstly, there are several reasons for reading the Bible. I have always encouraged you to read the Bible for the purpose of increasing your spirituality and faith. Spiritual growth is a gradual process, so be patient. You may also use the Bible for historical references. Through the Bible you may seek advice on daily living and guidance. You may combine it with prayers and read it at home or while in Church as a community. Bible scriptures are part of the Church's liturgy and are repetitive during the Church's various cycles. Your attitude is of paramount importance. Bear in mind that when you read the Bible with diligence and sincerity, you may enjoy a dialogue with God. Think of the Bible as a private meeting place between you and God. He loves you very much and He wishes to personally talk to you.

    Let's begin. We will celebrate Palm Sunday, April 4.

    In John's Gospel, prior to Jesus' entry to Jerusalem, He performed one of his most noted miracles. That is the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead- read John chapter 11. Now go to John chapter 12. In John 12, Mary anoints Jesus' feet with expensive perfumed oil and then she dried his feet with her hair. Find out about Judas Iscariot's attitude regarding this incident by reading this gospel. Read also, Mark 14:3-9 and Matthew 26-6-13. Details from these various episodes have become interchanged.

    John 12:9 The crowds came not only to see Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead 10-And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too, 11-because many of the Jews were turning away and believing in Jesus because of him.

    In the above passage, I included the numbers of each verse as it is written in the Bible.

    In John 12:12-19 Jesus' entry to Jerusalem (Palm Sunday) occurred on the next day, however in the Synoptics (Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke) it precedes the anointing. In John, the crowds, not disciples, are responsible for the triumphal procession. Just as everyone will see situations in a slightly different light, the apostles recorded the accounts of Jesus' ministry according to their personal perceptions. This is the reason for the variations in the gospels.

    Palm branches were used to welcome great conquerors and the palm leaf was also used in decorative carvings.

    John 12; 15 "Fear no more O daughter Zion; see, your king comes, seated upon an ass's colt." Jesus rode on an Ass's colt which was a symbol of peace as opposed to the war-horse.

    FORGIVENESS

    Jesus came for our salvation; He came in order for us to be with Him and His Heavenly Father eternally in Heaven. He showed us by his example and taught us through his parables how we should live, how to think and behave in order to enter heaven. God's forgiveness was prophesized and acknowledged in the Old Testament and through Jesus' Passion and Resurrection, it was realized in the New Testament. Indeed, the Old Testament and the New Testament are replete with the message of salvation.

    Old Testament--
    Isaiah 55:7 - Let the scoundrel forsake his way, and the wicked man his thoughts; Let him turn to the Lord for mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving.

    New Testament--
    1 John 1:9 - But if we acknowledge our sins, he who is just can be trusted to forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrong.

    What wonderful scriptures of redemption and hope! When you read the above passages, how can you not feel free from the pain of guilt, regret and sorrow?

    There are more passages on the subject of forgiveness. To find more passages, you may go to the Bible Encyclopedic Dictionary located in the back of your Bible and look up the word forgiveness. You will see all the various scriptures that refer to forgiveness. There is a very good reason why the Bible is redundant with foregiveness.

    Biblical definition of Forgiveness: "Forgiveness of sin is an act of God toward the sinner because to forgive sin is an exclusive prerogative of God. Jesus Christ, by virtue of His Divinity, assumed the right to forgive sin, and He passed this prerogative to the Church. The Church continues to forgive sin as a timely commissioned task. There are many ways in which sin is forgiven. The Eucharist and prayer are means of forgiveness. Penance is a special Sacrament of forgiveness" (you may find this in the Bible Enclopedic Dictionary - verify it in your Bible)

    Webster's Dictionary defines forgive - "pardon or cease to feel resentment against (a person), remission, to be merciful",

    Ephesians 4:32 - And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.

    Colossians 3:13 - Bear with one another; forgive whatever grievances you have against one another. Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you.

    This is truly a poignant and powerful scripture and it resonates with Jesus' parables and sacrificial example! We are all equally imperfect and sinful human beings but we know that through Jesus' teachings God forgives us. In the "Lord's Prayer, Jesus taught us to forgive one another!

    After having been heinously scourged, spat upon and mocked - while carrying his heavy cross - after having his hands and feet mercilessly nailed to the cross - while experiencing unimaginable pain - thirsty for a drop of water, Jesus lovingly forgave his accusers, he forgave his torturers and he sacrificed himself for our sins and transgressions. In spite of all his sufferings, he loves us and asks Our Heavenly Father to forgive us! Although this is perplexing to understand because it surpassess unconditional love, we must strive daily and in every situation to emulate Jesus' love and compassion.

    Therefore, as Christians, we are obligated to forgive everyone for their offenses towards us. While Jesus was obedient to His Father and forgave us our sins by his example and teaching, we also should forgive all offenses towards us.

    If we could taste and feel his divine love, and share in his sufferings, we would understand that humility and tolerance would result in peace of mind, body and spirit. With forgiveness, our family and business relationships abound with love and understanding; our physical limitations become easier to bear. Yes, forgiveness is definitely an asset.

    Most of my research on this subject came directly from the Holy Bible and a Bible handbook. In addition the pastor of our parish, Fr. Sami Baroody will be reviewing my explanations for verification and accuracy and I thank him for his valued time. Our parish is St. Ann's Melkite Catholic Church

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    Prayer For Forgiveness

    Merciful God, you invite us to repentance so that we can find the happiness we are seeking. Help us to trust more deeply in the Good News of salvation so that we can turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel. As we more pray more devoutly and listen to your Word more attentively, may our hearts be transformed by the saving love of the cross.

    We ask these things as we ask all things, in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen

    Continue to pray the rosary for world peace, for the safety of our troops and conversion of sinners. Thank you.

    Your companion in prayer,
    Mary

    To be continued......