Everyone has been through it…the necessity to forgive and the compulsion (or lack thereof) to ask for forgiveness. To be on either side of this spectrum is, at times, difficult. Someone does something that hurts another, one apologizes, the other forgives. Easy peasy, right? Well, what happens when one does not get an apology? What happens when the person asking for forgiveness does not receive amnesty? How about when the offender continues to fall into their transgressions while also asking for forgiveness and creates a habit of hurting the person(s) through that continued wrongdoing?
Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive. ~ Luke 17:3-4
Boy that’s the hard part, isn’t it? To keep forgiving over and over. Well, what about when you feel you deserve an apology but do not receive one? Wait…what?! To forgive when the offender isn’t even sorry?! Our fallen human nature tells us to wait for an apology, but Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:38-40; Luke 6:29). Jesus tells us not to be proud, but rather humble ourselves (James 4:6-8; 1 Peter 5:6); and that if we do not forgive, God will not forgive us (Matthew 6:14-15). In order to grow in holiness and righteousness, we must forgive in the Name of Jesus Christ, and we must realize our own sins before another’s. In Matthew 7, Jesus Himself tells us “Do not judge, for the measure you give is the measure you receive.”
He will grace us with Divine Mercy when we simply ask Him to help us forgive.
As a side note, I should mention that forgiveness does not mean we must continue to allow another person to hurt us. We can establish healthy boundaries that respect our own dignity while still forgiving the offender.
He who knows how to forgive prepares for himself many graces from God. As often as I look upon the cross, so often will I forgive with all my heart. ~ The Diary of St. Faustina (390,p175).
I am a firm believer in learning from the saints for many reasons, forgiveness being one. A very special intercessor for my family is St. Maria Goretti. Her feast day is July 6th. She was a sweet and innocent 11 year old in the late 1800’s. She was murdered in a most heinous way, and yet, while she lay in her hospital bed dying, she said, “Yes, I forgive him and want him to be in Paradise with me someday.” Through her love and forgiveness, her own mother forgave her child’s murderer and that murderer had a full conversion to Christ! If you would like to learn her whole story you can do so here.
Learning about the saints to work on the power of forgiveness in my own life has proven to guide me in a good direction. I have come to the realization that in order to grow, I must decrease. As St. Therese the Little Flower teaches us, “In Your Arms, Jesus, which are the lift to carry me to heaven, and so there is no need for me to grow up. In fact, just the opposite: I must stay little and become less and less.” (Story of a Soul). Boy though, I have a very long way to go in increasing my faith and decreasing my pride. I’ve done too many things that have offended too many people I love. To those people, I am so sorry.
True freedom comes with acknowledging how very little I am and how unworthy I am of God’s forgiveness. Reading the scripture, learning from the saints and doctors of the Church, examining my conscience, and frequently utilizing the Sacrament of Confession has given me clarity for the “bigger picture” in this life. I’ve been reading a book our priest friend gave us, Unbound: A Practical Guide to Deliverance. Upon opening to page 1, this is what you’ll find:
Jesus was savior. He rescued men from the evil and hopeless situation in which they found themselves; he broke the chains that bound them to the past and gave them a power which enabled them to meet the future. ~ William Barclay
We are our own worst enemy in the chains that might keep us from attaining heaven. Throughout scripture, Jesus continues to tell us not to be afraid, nor worry; and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Yet one of the ways we keep ourselves bound to those chains is withholding forgiveness and through that, holding a grudge and harboring anger. The longer we withhold forgiveness, on either end of the spectrum, the easier the path to hell becomes. The devil’s traps are planted everywhere. As Christians, we must be aware of them, take pause, and ask for Jesus Christ to carry us before getting entangled in them. We all fall. We are not perfect and will have moments of weakness. I keep a special palm rose on my prayer corner to remind me of a moment in my life I am ashamed of. I keep this although it brings back unpleasant memories of how horrible I was at one point in time to the very people I love the most. This reminder also acts as my trigger to thank God for the Sacrament of Confession; for the graces He bestows on me by lifting the veil I had draped over my eyes; and it also reminds me of my nothingness without Christ.
As I stated above, one of the best ways to granting and seeking forgiveness is through the Confessional. The Sacrament of Confession is such an important gift Jesus granted us so that we may be close to His Sacred Heart. Another book that my family has read, Forgive Us Our Trespasses (Mother Mary Loyola), the author explains in such an astounding way the urgency of catechizing our youth, and, in turn, reeducating adults who have lost the zeal we all need to be soldiers for Christ.
No matter how sick he is, how many sins are on his soul, or how bad they are — he will be healed. And if he gets sick again and comes again as he ought, he will be healed again. As often as he comes he will be healed. Oh, how grateful we ought to be to our Blessed Lord for making His Pool in the Catholic Church so much happier a place than the one at Jerusalem long ago! (p 86)
Lord, forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.