The renowned English poet Alexander
Pope stated: “To err is human; to forgive
is divine.” How true this statement, but how difficult it can be! Holding
on to resentment indeed is interior slavery. Whereas, to forgive is truly
imitating God Himself, but also setting the captive free and that captive is
Frequently and in unequivocal terms
Jesus has reaffirmed the indispensable obligation of all to forgive those who
hurt us, to pray for our enemies, and to do good to those who hurt us! Once
again, easier said than done! Actually without God’s grace to forgive those who
have wounded us and to love and pray for our enemies far transcends and
supersedes our natural powers. In sum, we need Gods’ grace to forgive our
Jesus is our example in all, in absolutely all we say, do and even think in our daily
lives! Indeed He said it clearly: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”
Jesus first begun by doing and then by His preaching. First actions, then
His very demanding teaching on
forgiveness, He lived to perfection at every stage and moment of His earthly
What are some of the teachings of
Jesus on mercy and forgiveness? Meditate on a few! “Be merciful as your Heavenly Father is
merciful.” In response to Peter’s
generous willingness to forgive seven times, Jesus upped it a notch or two: “No,
I say to you to forgive seventy times seven.”
This is hyperbole for the imperious obligation to forgive always,
without limits or reservations!
Then Jesus made a Liturgical/Mass
allusion. He said that if you have come to Church to present your offering and
you know that your brother has something against you, to simply leave the
offering at the foot of the altar, reconcile with your brother and then return
to offer the gift. In other words, to celebrate worthily the Liturgy we should
strive to be at peace with our brothers and sisters, and not be angry and
resentful towards anybody.
Then the most famous prayer in the
world, the Our Father, Jesus inserted this very important command: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive
those who trespass against us.” In
other words, forgiveness from God on our part is a two way street. If we want to
be a recipient of God’s forgiveness, then necessarily we must forgive those who
have hurt us!
Finally, the most eloquent witness of Gods’
forgiveness for all of humanity and for us individually was when Jesus hung
upon the cross after having been scourged, crowned with thorns, spat upon and
mocked, forgotten and abandoned by His loved ones, derided and mocked
incessantly. What was His response as He hung on the cross ready to breathe
forth His spirit? These words: “Father forgive them for they know not what
they are doing.”
Following are five short and concrete
suggestions to help us on the pathway to forgiveness and mercy!
BEG FOR THE GRACE. To forgive our enemies, to pray for them and
to love them goes far beyond our fallen human nature. We desperately need God’s overflowing and
abundant graces. Saint Augustine says that we are all beggars before God.
Therefore, we should beg for the grace to forgive when we are put to the test.
God will not deny us this petition and important grace!
FORGIVE IMMEDIATELY. When we are offended, often the devil works
on us right away fostering in our minds thoughts of revenge. Such ugly and
vindictive thoughts can easily surface: “Get
even!” “Teach him a lesson.” “Give him his own medicine.” “Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.” Finally, “Do
not let him get away with it this time.” In a certain sense we might feel, as a
Protestant preacher once put it succinctly: “We desire to forgive but only
after we see him squirm like a worm in hot ashes, at least for a while.” All of
these thoughts and feelings are diametrically opposed to the teaching of Our merciful Savior and we must resist them and
reject them as soon as we become aware of them. Therefore, if we respond to God’s
grace of mercy and forgive immediately there is a very good chance that the
victory is ours! In sum, be quick to
reject vindictive thoughts and even more rapid to forgive!
HUMILITY. Another efficacious
spiritual weapon that we have in our armory is that of HUMILITY. How?
In this way! If forgiveness
proves laborious and near impossible, then call to mind your worse sin or your
most embarrassing sin and the fact that God forgave you of this as soon as you
begged for His mercy and forgiveness. Most likely the offense that was leveled
against you is minimal in comparison with your most grave or embarrassing sin.
This can prove a very powerful tool to
open up your heart in mercy and forgiveness!
MERCY IS A TWO-WAY STREET! Next, remember that receiving God’s mercy is
not a dead-end street, but rather a two-way street! Meaning? Jesus said: “Be merciful as your
Heavenly Father is merciful… and forgive…” Therefore, if we want to experience
God’s infinite mercy in our lives, we must extend our hand in forgiveness
towards those who have offended us. The
Our Father teaches us the same lesson: “Forgive
us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Saint Faustina Kowalska in the “Diary of
Divine Mercy in my soul” asserts unequivocally that the greatest attribute or
virtue in God is His infinite Mercy. Followers of Jesus the merciful Savior
must practice this sublime but very demanding virtue. Mercy is God’s love
forgiving the sinner. We deciding to forgive our enemies is a clear sign of the victory of God’s grace
and mercy in our lives!
JESUS BLEEDING FROM THE CROSS. Possibly the most convincing motivational
force to compel us to forgive those who offend us is the serene but serious
contemplation of Jesus hanging on the cross, shedding every drop of His most
Precious Blood to save all of humanity, but in particular my own immortal soul. After being hurt and maybe not willing to
forgive, lift up your eyes to contemplate Jesus as He hangs from the cross.
Remember what He has already gone through: sweating Blood, scourged at the
Pillar, crowned with thorns, denied by Peter, betrayed by Judas, condemned
being totally innocent, nailed to the cross, and shedding every drop of His
Precious Blood. What was the first word/short sentence/ that issued forth from
His most Sacred Heart? Look, listen,
contemplate and pray! “Father,
forgive them for they know not what they are doing!” Meditating upon these words, coupled with the
contemplation of His bitter Passion, hanging from the cross and shedding of His
most Precious Blood, should be the most efficacious tool/hammer to crush the
hardened heart that is apparently unwilling to forgive! Finally, beg Our Lady
of Sorrows, Our Lady of mercy, for the grace to forgive. Nobody ever suffered more than Mary—aside from
Jesus Himself! Still, as she heard and witnessed her only Son suffer and die on
the cross, brutally mistreated, she forgave from the depths of her Immaculate
Heart. May Our Lady attain for us the grace to forgive, be merciful and merit
the title to be truly the son of God the Father, brother to Jesus Christ, and friend of the
Holy Spirit in time and for all eternity! Amen.