“…My Son said to you to forgive and to love each other. I know that this is not always easy. Suffering makes you grow in spirit. For you to spiritually grow all the more, you must sincerely and truly forgive and love…” (January 2, 2018)
Though we have heard these words about forgiveness many times, it may not be so evident to us that to be Christians we must forgive. Forgiveness is at the base of Christ’s message to us. Through forgiveness we bring about a dramatic change in the world. How many marriages and families are torn apart by unforgiveness? How many friendships are lost through unforgiveness? How much mental illness is the result of not forgiving oneself, and not being forgiven by others? Wars come from not forgiving debts. The list is long. But through forgiveness we can stop or mitigate these calamities.
As Our Lady tells us, her Son told us to forgive and to love each other. Most notably, Jesus gave us the Our Father as a blueprint for life, and forgiveness has no small part in that blueprint:
Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our debts,
As we also have forgiven our debtors;
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you;
but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Mt 6: 9-15)
We ask the Father to meet all our needs in the Our Father. We ask for daily bread which is to ask for everything we need to live for that day, food, shelter, even the Eucharist! Next on the list is to ask the Father to forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. The process of forgiveness must be really fundamental if it comes right after our daily needs.
And I think it is! I know that I sin every day. The older I get, the more I see it. How can I be so weak? Only God knows the why and how! But it is true. And so all the disorder I leave in my wake needs to be rectified. First I must ask God to forgive me for my behavior. And then a big part of the process is my willingness to forgive those in my life who are as weak as me! My forgiveness for them can be life giving. It can open up pathways of understanding and peace for my family and friends. Forgiveness is as important as eating and sleeping, I think! Maybe more important!
Of course the Father is quick to forgive, when He sees us forgive others. Our forgiveness can call down a huge blessing from God on all involved. He blesses those who forgive. So a huge part of being Christian is being a forgiver!
Finally, Jesus gave us a most powerful example of forgiveness from the Cross:
And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Lk 23:34)
He forgave His murderers, and not only that, He asked the Father to forgive them as well. It leaves us speechless. It seems impossible and scandalously generous. But it is Jesus, showing us how to forgive those who trespass against us. And it gives us the power to forgive as well. Through Jesus’ redemptive act, we receive the power to be like Him, to love like Him, to forgive like Him. We can become extensions of His forgiveness. We can be part of the solution in a world so bound up in sin that it cannot move.
Mother Mary wants us to be like her Son. She, of all people, knows it is not easy and that suffering will always be our companion. But she sees suffering as an asset, because it can make us grow in love and the strength to forgive. It is a tool to bring us to holiness.
May we ponder the power and beauty of forgiveness and choose to forgive today!