Is it too hard to be forgiving?
The Mercy of God
Giving forgiveness is so necessary in order to receive forgiveness. Jesus makes that point clear in Matt. 18:21-35. He also makes it clear in the prayer to “Our Father” in which He taught us to make the following deal with God: “Forgive us our sins AS (the same way) we forgive those who have sinned against us.”
We need to take an honest look at the grudges we still carry, so that we can let go of them and receive God’s healing. Resentment and anger are crosses we are not supposed to carry.
Here are a few questions that can help us identify areas of unforgiveness:
- Do I think God cannot forgive my sins? Or someone else’s?
- Do I hate myself for my sinfulness or mistakes and failures? Am I jealous of those who seem holier or better than me?
- Am I quick to complain about others?
- Is there anyone who makes me feel irritated, even when I’m just thinking about him or her?
Mercy comes in many forms: Forgiveness for and doing good deeds to the people who irritate us are the principal actions we take, as Jesus instructs in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5,6,7). But are we really willing to give such mercy?
In Pope John Paul II’s encyclical The Mercy of God (Dives in Misericordia), he tells us:
“We must note that Christ, in revealing the love-mercy of God, at the same time demanded from people that they also should be guided in their lives by love and mercy. This requirement forms part of the very essence of the messianic message and constitutes the heart of the gospel ethos. The Teacher expressed this both through the medium of the commandment which he describes as ‘the greatest,’ (Matt. 22:38) and also in the form of a blessing, when in the Sermon on the Mount he proclaims: ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.’ (Matt. 5:7)”
St. Peter Chrysologus said: “If you want to receive, give. If you ask for yourself what you deny to others, your asking is a mockery …. You will not be allowed to keep what you have refused to give to others.”
If we want God’s mercy, because we know we’ve sinned, we have to give mercy. If we refuse to give mercy to others — if we complain instead of reaching out, if we seek revenge instead of helping — we cannot have God’s mercy. It’s not because God denies it to us; He loves us all the time, no matter what! For us to receive mercy, we have to be a vessel with a hole at both ends — God’s mercy flows out of us to others so that more can flow into us.
In the humility of the desire for holiness that you have, personalize this prayer of Pope John Paul II: “May Christ’s followers … abound in works of mercy; may they be compassionate towards all, that they themselves may obtain indulgence and forgiveness from You.”
Choosing to forgive does not mean we think the sin was really okay or excusable. It does not even mean that we have to have the person who hurt us continue to be in our lives, especially if it was an abusive relationship. Choosing to forgive is not based on whether or not the other person is remorseful. It’s something we do for ourselves. It’s letting go of the grudges, the anger and with it the pain.
We forgive because we realize that those who sinned against us didn’t understand what they were doing, not really, or else they would never have done it, which is why Jesus prayed from the cross despite His enormous pain: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!” We forgive because we love others unconditionally, like Jesus. And we forgive so that we can have peace within ourselves again.
© 2002 by Terry A. Modica
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