To forgive one’s enemy, to pray for the person that has done you harm, to will good towards a person who has mortally wounded you or a loved one, is without a doubt one of the most difficult actions in the world. Indeed it cannot be done by our weak human efforts. God has to intervene with His amazing grace!   The following essay is designed to help us to come to terms with forgiving others. All our life people will be hurting us and we will be hurting others. There are two options:  a decision to hold back forgiveness or a firm decision in the will to forgive. If we are true disciples of Jesus we must choose the path of forgiveness in imitation of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, by doing so we will experience true freedom and we will be setting the captive free!

1.    BEG FOR THE GRACE.   To practice chastity, to live out humility, as well as to forgive those who hurt us and even our enemies we need supernatural graces that comes from constant, humble, and persevering prayer.  Saint Augustine expresses it with a graphic image:  “All of us are all beggars before God.”   This means that we desperately need His help and grace to avoid sin, to live a life of holiness and to forgive from the heart those who have hurt us deeply.  “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be open.” (Mt 7:7).  Why not knock insistently and confidently at the door of God’s Heart begging for the grace to forgive.

2.    RECEIVE MERCY.   If we are to receive mercy from God, then we must be merciful to others. It is a two-way street!   Jesus expresses this truth unequivocally:  “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.”  This is a command, an imperative!  The most famous prayer in the entire world prayed by Catholics, Orthodox, and all Main-line Christian religions is the “Our Father”—also known as the “Lord’s prayer”.  It is easy to be a selective reader, listener or even “Prayer-warrior”--- meaning like “Cafeteria Catholicism” we can pick and choose what appeals most to our spiritual taste-buds.   In the Our Father, we might choose to catapult over “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…  This is called “Selective” praying: choosing and selecting the part of the prayer that most appeals to me! No way!  Can’t be done! If I want God’s forgiveness I must extend my forgiveness to others.  A priest once preached on the Our Father and said, “If you are unwilling to forgive your brother, then do not pray the “Our Father”--- meaning, you are only playing lip-service, but do not mean it from your heart.

3.    RECEIVE THE EUCHARIST: THE OFFERING OF YOUR GIFT.   Our sanctification passes through Jesus Christ, “The Holy Of Holies”.  He said that He would be with us always even until the end of the world. Where then is Jesus, if He ascended and is seated at the right hand of the Father in glory?   In the Church and especially in the Sacraments. However the grace of the Sacrament is receive in proportion to the disposition of the individual--- in theology called “The Dispositive grace”.  Jesus paints a scenario.  If you are coming to offer your gift at the altar and know that someone has something against you, then leave your gift at the altar, be reconciled to your brother and then return to offer your gift. INTERPRETATION!   If you are at Holy Mass and remember that someone has something against you, then leave the Church to first make peace with this person and then return to offer the gift. It is interesting that Jesus does not even specify who is at fault!  In other words, we should not receive Holy Communion, the Sacrament of Christ’s love, if we are fostering resentment against anybody in our heart.  We will be crucifying the Lord again!
4.    FORGIVE IMMEDIATELY/ DO NOT LET THE SUN GO DOWN ON YOUR ANGER!   An essential point in winning the battle to forgive is to forgive right away.  The Bible says that we should never let the sun go down on our anger.  Why? The reason is clear!   The more we put off, delay, procrastinate in forgiving, the harder it becomes to forgive.   In time the devil fans the flames of past hurts exacerbating the hurt and turning the mole hill into the mountain.  Shakespeare expressed it well:  “To err is human but to forgive is divine.”  Why not imitate God and forgive like lightning!   Why not strive to imitate God!  The Psalmist describes God as being slow to anger and quick to forgive. Our nature is to be quick to anger and slow to forgive. But we must imitate our Lord and Savior!

5.    CONTEMPLATE THE PASSION OF JESUS AND HIS FIRST WORD FROM THE CROSS.    After Jesus was scourged at the pillar, crowned with sharp thorns, smacked, punched and spat upon, and then nailed to the cross between two thieves, as He hung upon the cross in bitter agony, His first words from the cross were: “ FATHER FORGIVE THEM  FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY ARE DOING!”.    If it seems exceedingly difficult to forgive, then we should contemplate Jesus as He hangs on the cross and His words of forgiveness.  Why not kneel before the crucified Lord and repeat “Father forgive x  name of the person that hurt you_______________________ for he knows not what he is doing…  Repeat the prayer several times.  This prayer before Jesus crucified can melt the icy resentment in the hardest of hearts.

6.    RECALL YOUR OWN SINS BEFORE THE LORD’S MERCY!  Another helpful and efficacious device might be to recall your own many sins as well as the gravity of them. (Recall especially your most serious or embarrassing sin).  Then remember that Jesus forgave you all of those sins, immediately and many times over and Jesus forgave in a heartbeat. Now compare Jesus’ forgiveness of your sins to your lack of forgiveness and your unwillingness to forgive something of much lesser gravity!
7.     DAMAGES OF LACK OF FORGIVENESS. Not forgiving leads to anger and anger to resentment, and resentment to bitterness, and then to hatred. If not physically like Cain killing Abel, we are killing the person in our heart! The poisonous effects are almost countless! Physically this can cause ulcers, insomnia and many sleepless nights, fears and insecurities, sadness that eventually leads to depression and then chronic depression and then medication for these ills.  This state of soul will overflow in other family and social relationships. The fixed idea of anger against this person can cause distractions and lack of efficient work and even the loss of one’s job.  Worse yet, the lack of forgiveness jeopardizes one’s relationship with God.  Jesus in very clear terms said: “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers that you do to me....’ and “Love one another as I have loved you…”  We read in the letters of St. John: “How can anybody say he loves God who he does not see if he hates his brother who he does see?”  In other words lack of forgiveness can wreak havoc on a physical, psychological, emotional, social, moral and spiritual level. In other words, it is slow suicide in the person!
8.    PRAY FOR YOUR ENEMY!   If you cannot approach the person physically, then at least pray for the person that has hurt you. By doing this you are already on the right path.  Deep wounds take a while to heal. Prayer is the first medicine to take to heal the wounds.  Jesus said that it is easy to pray for those who like us even the pagans do that. Pray for your enemies.

9.     SAINTS AND FORGIVENESS.   We all need models to look at, to admire and to emulate. As Christian-Catholics, of course Jesus is first. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  In addition to contemplating the life of Jesus we should get to know the saints and their heroic practice of virtue and most specifically how they battled with and overcame temptations to seek out revenge. It was not always easy!  A few saints that come to mind with respect to forgiveness are the following: St. Stephen, St. Maria Gorreti, St. Josefina Bakhita, Blessed Pope John Paul II, Blessed Miguel Pro, S.J,. Many of the martyrs,  as they died,  prayed for and forgave there persecutors! Let the powerful example of the saints spur you on to victory over your pride and resentment which has enslaved you in an attitude of unforgiveness!
10. MEDITATE ON THE FOUR LAST THINGS.  Always of perennial value is the sober but efficacious meditation on the four Last things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell.  Now how would you like to be laying on your deathbed clinging tenaciously to anger, resentment and hatred towards somebody? On further step, you have died in that state! We do not know when the Lord will call us???? Immediately you are brought before the Judgment seat of God, before Jesus the Lord.  Dying in that state and having to present yourself before the Judge of the universe and the judge of all of your actions, thoughts, desires, intentions, attitudes and dispositions of heart. What might be your fate for all eternity?   Remember the words of the Spanish mystic Saint John of the Cross:  “In the twilight of our existence, we will be judged on love.”

FINAL REFELCTION: OUR LADY OF MERCY.  Aside from Jesus, never was there anybody who came close to suffering as much as Our Lady. She stood those long hours underneath the cross when all the hatred of the world was lashed out against her beloved Son. Not for an instant did Mary give in to anger or resentment against those who mercilessly killed her Son. On the contrary, she prayed for them all the more fervently. Turn to Mary in your dark and difficult moments and she will attain for you the power to forgive those who have hurt you so that God will forgive you and one day receive you into heaven.