What is forgiveness? This question can seem odd, but it carries with it a huge load or burden. Do not we always utter these words: “I forgive you”? Yet it becomes challenging when the very same person to whom we offered our forgiveness comes back to hurt us again. Our common reaction is to remind the offender of our previous mercy or forgiveness. Then we act, either in retaliation or exposing our fury. Christ teaches us that forgiveness does not count how many times we have been offended. It demonstrates how big our heart is and our thirst to follow Christ.
In today’s readings, we are reminded of one of the most difficult things for human beings with regards to forgiveness: letting it go. But how can let it go while we are carrying our own past with us? That is the key question. While for God forgiving means at the same forgetting about the offense, for us human things are otherwise: while we forgive, we still remember. The particularity of Christianity with regards to forgiveness is that our remembrance has no effects upon our future relationship with the offender. Although we remember, our actions no longer depend upon our capability to remember what happened to us. In other words, we remember, yet we act based on the commandment of love which calls to love those who hate us and to pray for those who persecute us.
We forgive because that is who we are: Christians. We ourselves are recipients and beneficiaries of God’s mercy and forgiveness. We love as He loved us, and we forgive as our lives depend on His mercy for us. I like to say, “forgiveness shames the offender and becomes source of our own freedom.” St. Paul advises us when he says, “owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another.” Forgiveness is therefore “one of the most unselfish acts of love.” But how do we get there? To be able to forgive unselfishly, we are to ask for the grace that enables us to do so from God. While forgiveness brings healing, it is always a long road to get there. Relying on the Lord and on His mercy will lead us to true freedom that comes with forgiveness.
Let us turn to the Father who grants us true forgiveness that helps us forgive one another, as we continue to pray for one another and for our parish family.