July 24, 2019 | Fr. Claude Lombardo, MC
It is a reality for all of us, at least in certain moments of our life, that we may find it difficult to forgive, especially if the offense committed against us were serious ones. In spite of this tendency, it is very healthy for our spiritual lives to learn how to forgive. Let’s reflect on five reasons to choose mercy and forgiveness.
First: we have to forgive to be consistent with our own saying! When we pray the Our Father, we say, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive…”. The Lord, when He taught the Apostles how to pray, wanted to remind all of us about this condition for receiving forgiveness: we must first forgive. It does not seem that Jesus is asking too much, does it?
To the very well-known question of Saint Peter, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him?…” (Mt 18:21), the Lord gave a very clear answer: always! Then, the Lord wants us to forgive! This should be a powerful reason if we meditate on it deeply. The Son of God took flesh and came to the earth to redeem us but also to give us a concrete example to follow. He forgave without conditions or reservations, even at the moment of death, even wicked people who did not ask for such a favor. He is our divine Model to follow. Let us forgive then, even when it hurts.
When we get angry, when we have been victims of an injustice, we can easily forget who we really are. At such moments, we can forget that we are also sinners, that we are weak, that we can and surely have offended our neighbors many times! St. Augustine says that what another person can do, I also can do. When it’s almost impossible for us to forgive, it’s very healthy to recognize that we have been, or could be, in the same position as the person who is now the object of our anger. It will not change the reality of the situation, but it may help to soften our reaction, and make us more merciful.
When someone offends us through no fault of our own, then the evil is outside our heart. We are not responsible. We can be at peace with our conscience. However, if we respond to the offense with anger, hatred, and resentment, then we become part of the problem. The evil has entered our heart and we have sunk to the same level as our opponent. Resist the temptation to reply with negative emotions. Rather, even in the middle of a trial, maintain your practice of kindness towards others. Protect your peace. Do not allow the injustice to touch your heart!
Even from a selfish perspective, forgiveness is the smartest option for us! Forgiveness is freedom. When we love a person, we think about that person, keeping him or her in mind throughout the day. When we hate someone the same is true. Our minds are preoccupied in a similar way by thoughts of those who love us as well as by thoughts of those who have harmed us. Resentment and grudges stay with us and are not good friends at all. They can fill our life with bitterness. What a beautiful feeling we get when we are able, with the grace of God, to go to the depths of our hearts and destroy all the darkness there provoked by the offenses and sins of others. What a feeling of liberation! It’s like setting aside a heavy weight that we have been bearing while walking up a mountain.
Truly, forgiveness is a difficult task but “God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength …” (1 Cor 10:13). Always remember that what it is impossible for us is possible for God. Ask for the grace insistently and the Lord will give you the wisdom and the strength to forgive, and then to move forward and recover true and lasting peace.