Forgiveness

 

Forgiveness art by Charlie Mackesy
Art by Charlie Mackesy

 



How often must I forgive my brother?

~ Matthew 18:21


 

Perhaps the “work” that best expresses faith is — forgiveness.

Jesus clearly saw that lack of forgiveness was one of the most blatant characteristics of the people around him, and he seemed to appreciate how hard it is to forgive absolutely and forever.

This is because we have no real grasp of what God has done and continually does for us.

Our lack of insight makes us critical, intolerant, unforgiving. We tend to think we have been splendid when we have taken a snub silently, overlooked what seemed like hurtful behaviour on the part of another.

It isn’t like that at all, Jesus says. You are bound to have pity and to forgive. It isn’t a work of supererogation but sheer bounden duty.

Think of the little things I take umbrage at, react to, or perhaps cope with quite virtuously according to my own estimation . . .

Now Jesus isn’t saying: ‘I understand, my poor dear; yes, you have been badly treated and you did very well not to lose your temper or answer back.’

On the contrary he is saying: ‘It is unthinkable that you should take any notice whatever of such things, and you wouldn’t if you had the slightest idea of what your heavenly Father is always doing for you. What if he were to treat you in that miserable, miserly, unloving way!’

~ A Meditation by Sister Rachel of the Quidenham Carmel (Ruth Burrows) O.C.D.

 

“I cannot believe that a soul which has arrived so near to Mercy itself, where she knows what she is, and how many sins God has forgiven her, should not instantly and willingly forgive others, and be pacified and wish well to everyone who has injured her, because she remembers the kindness and favors our Lord has shown her, whereby she has seen proofs of exceeding great love, and she is glad to have an opportunity offered to show some gratitude to her Lord.” — St. Teresa of Avila

 

“Pardon one another so that later on you will not remember the injury. The recollection of an injury is itself wrong. It adds to our anger, nurtures our sin, and hates what is good. It is a rusty arrow and poison for the soul. It puts all virtue to flight.” — St. Francis of Paola

 

“‘If he trespass against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to you, saying, I repent; you shall forgive him’ (Lk. 17:4).
As the Searcher of hearts, the Lord knows that men are liable to very frequent trespass, and that, having fallen, they often rise up again; therefore He has given us the commandment to frequently forgive trespasses, and He Himself is the first to fulfill His holy word. As soon as you say from your whole heart, ‘I repent,’ you will be immediately forgiven.” — St. John of Kronstadt

 

 

May we always ask the Lord for the grace to forgive and to be forgiven!

 

 

Trust in God’s Mercy


Jesus tells Nicodemus that just as the bronze serpent was an instrument of healing, so too will the Son of Man be the source of salvation when he is lifted up on the Cross. ~ John 3:14-21.


 

Christ of Saint John of the Cross 1951 art by Salvador Dali
Christ of Saint John of the Cross, art by Salvador Dalí 1951

 

“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” This image refers to the time that God sent Seraph serpents among the people as a punishment for their complaints against God and Moses. Those who were bitten but still lived begged Moses to intercede for them. God told Moses to make a bronze serpent and mount it on a pole. “And everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live” (Nm 21:9). Why would looking upon the bronze serpent bring healing? Because it symbolizes acknowledging the consequences of one’s actions. It means looking upon what we have done to ourselves and to others. This is the first step in healing. The serpent mounted on the pole is a symbol of Jesus upon the cross. On the cross we see what our sins have done. We have killed Beauty, Truth, and Goodness. As we grow older, the cross is set before our eyes more and more as our sinful past looms up before us and we see the damage that lies in the wake of our lives.

But more that an icon of our sins, the Cross is the manifestation of God’s infinite mercy. It is God’s promise that the final judgement upon our lives is mercy and forgiveness. “Christ’s death on the cross is a judgement of judgement, ” Maximus the Confessor puts it (Clement 49). How can this be otherwise? Jesus, who allowed himself to be murdered, offered his murderers forgiveness as he hung dying. In the Cross God reveals completely unmerited forgiveness.

If, when we look upon the Cross, we see only our sins, we are not looking deeply enough. Sin, which is an offense against God, cannot be separated from God’s forgiveness. Such a myopic way of looking at sin can result in what Saint Teresa considers one of the great dangers of the spiritual life—discouragement. If we look at our sins isolated from God’s mercy, we do not perceive them correctly. Teresa tells us that we should look at our sins against the backdrop of God’s mercy, as if we were looking at a black dot against a white background. Excessive introspection upon one’s sinfulness is dangerous because we see only the black dot. “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “The belief that Jesus is referring to is trust in God’s mercy.

~ A Meditation by Fr. Marc Foley, O.C.D.