Forgiveness is a Two Way Street

Saint Leander of Seville

“We want God to suffer everything from us, and we are not able to suffer anything from anyone.  We exaggerate beyond measure the faults committed against us; … we take the slightest pressure exerted on us to be an enormous attack.

“Blind and wretched mortals … Will we never understand that the one who does injury to is is always much more to be pitied than are we who receive the injury?  That he pierces his now heart while merely grazing our skin, and that, in the end, our enemies are mad; wanting to make us drink all of the venom of their hatred, they do so first themselves, swallowing the very poison they have prepared? … she do we embitter them with our cruel vengeance?  Why do we not father seek to bring them back to reason by our patience and mildness?”  (Note 1)

“Let us, then, not wait until the hour of death to pardon our enemies, but let us practice what St. Paul taught:  “Do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph. 4:26). … If we reserve all of the business of our salvation until the day of our death, it will be far too busy a day.”  (Note 2)

“As I hear people talk, I sometimes wonder if those who are unwilling to forgive others embrace that attitude because they do not believe God forgives them.  Does that come from an inability to love ourselves?”  (Note 3)

These are most fitting readings for today, especially in the view of forgiveness—because that is what we seek from God.  We cannot be holy without God’s forgiveness, we are all wretched sinners, even the holiest of us.  so we all need forgiveness to be holy.  Which is great because that’s exactly what God will do for us because he is merciful.  As the prologue to the Catechism says, “God our Savior desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  (Note 4)

In seeking God’s forgiveness, God does share some of that burden with us — he will forgive us as we forgive those who sin against us (cf Mt 6:9-15).  I don’t think any of us have a really good track record at this.  Heck, religion (ALL religions) don’t have a good track record at this.  Instead, religions, just like the people who comprise them, have a history of, in their quest to make people more just, they have forgotten how to be just themselves.  That is something I believe stems not from the nature of religion, but from the nature of Man.  Our religions have a hard time practicing justice and forgiveness because the people who comprise them have refuse to practice it themselves — but they sure like to practice their injustice in new and cruel ways to try to make other people more just.  Perhaps they should spend a little more time on that plank in their eye (cf. Mt 7:3-5 and Lk 6:41-42).  But, that admonition doesn’t just apply to religion, but to all people — especially, and more so, Christians — we are supposed to be better than the pagans, right? (cf. Mt 5:43-48)

As mentioned in the third quote, do people who won’t forgive others believe God won’t forgive them, or further, not love themselves?  That’s a poignant observation, but I don’t know the answer.  I’m inclined to agree with it because forgiveness is a very difficult thing to do — more difficult if you believe yourself unforgiven.  And the surest way to believe yourself unforgiven is to not love yourself. I guess that means there is a nugget of truth in that.  But this brings up another point, once we’ve gone to confession, confessed ours ins and received absolution, why do we dwell on that sin?  I have troubles with this, especially when it’s a sin where I’ve wronged someone.  I think it is a natural condition of man, a product of true remorsefulness, but it can become unhealthy if we keep brooding.  I tell myself over and over again that God has forgiven me and my sins are now on the bottom of the ocean, forgotten because they’re forgiven. (cf Mic 7:18-19)

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Notes:

1.  Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Lent, trans. Christopher O. Blum (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2013), 49-50.

2.  Bossuet, Meditations, 51-52.

3.  Dorothy Jonaitis, “Forgive as God Does”.  In Renewing Our Discipleship, Daily Reflections on the 2017 Lenten Readings for Mass, ed. Steve Mueller (St Louis, MO: All Saints Press, 2017), 13.

4.  Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 9.

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